Mr. Olusegun Agbaje is the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Residential Electoral Commissioner (REC) for Osun State. In an interview programme, Politics Today on Channels Television, monitored by TEMITOPE OGUNBANKE, he speaks on the commission’s preparation for the September 22 governorship election in Osun State and vote-buying, among other issues
How prepared is the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the Osun State governorship election?
There is going to be 48 political parties for the Osun State governorship election holding on September 22 and this is the first time that Nigeria will have this large number of parties contesting a governorship election.
How are you going to cope with the election considering the number of the political parties in the race in terms of logistics, ballot papers and the conduct of the election?
Let me say that Osun State is still lucky in the sense that by next year when we are going to talk about 91 political parties; it is going to be more serious. But for the Osun State governorship election, everything would be put in place.
How many people are going to be eligible to vote on Election Day? How many people have you been able to register because according to your commission, about 411,000 Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) are yet to be collected?
You are very correct. The total registered number of voters in Osun State is 1,682,495. Out of this, about 1,208,187 PVCs have been collected, standing at about 72.08 per cent as at Sunday night. But apparently, those who are yet to collect, we still have about 468,025, which is about 27.9 per cent. The one for last year; that is the new PVCs left from 2017 to 2018 is just about 60,000 uncollected out of the 270,000 that were registered. But from the old ones, we still have about 407,000 uncollected in the areas where we may have some challenges in collection because many of those who registered that time were students of tertiary institutions in the state who passed out before the PVCs arrived.
There are also some, who work in federal establishments that have been transferred out and few of the people that registered that time have died. So, we assume that many of these may not be collected, but we are very much particular with the remaining 60,000 that we still have. We went to the wards last week and we were able to make substantive impact. Before we went, it was just about 68 per cent collection and now we are at 72 per cent plus and we do hope that before the election date, we will still have about two to three per cents more cards to be collected.
The issue of vote-buying has become a menace in our elections. What is INEC doing to make sure that this does not happen during the Osun State governorship election?
At several fora, we have made it known to people that first, election should not be an issue of do-or-die. And secondly, election should be seen as sought of a game among political aspirants. Buying or selling votes is very critical and embarrassing situation to the commission. The commission has looked at it and still looking at it. But, already, the commission has decided that we are going to rearrange our polling booths in such a way that voters will not be well positioned to exhibit their ballot papers to outsiders after casting their ballots.
We are also looking at the possibility of ensuring that the police this time are very active to ensure that they do not allow people to exhibit their ballot papers. In fact, the electoral law states that it is an electoral offence. For instance, if you look at sections 124 and 125 of the Electoral Act, it was specifically mentioned that a person who gives voters money to vote or not to for a candidate has committed an electoral offence. And anybody found guilty is liable to a fine or N100,000 or 12 months imprisonment. So, this is an issue that the security agencies, particularly the police can leverage on to ensure that people who are caught are charged to court and prosecuted.
If we have a quite number of people arrested, investigated and prosecuted, I am sure our people will learn some lessons. But we are also talking to the politicians as well as people of Osun State that selling of their votes is very dangerous. Because it means you are selling your future; you are selling possibility of having good hospitals, having good schools for our children and having good roads and any other good things that comes with good governance. So, as people sell their votes, they are bound to lose and those who are buying votes, it is also not good for them.
How many ad-hoc officials is INEC deploying for the election and constitute these the ad-hoc officials?
We are taking our ad-hoc officials from four major points in Osun State. One is the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) that is giving us almost more than 60 per cent of the officials. We have had about 8,000 before; now we have some people who are undergoing training at the NYSC Orientation Camp. And we also intend to take our officials to the camp to lecture them there. So, apparently, we are targeting about 9,000 corps members out of about 16,000 workers we are using for the election. We also have students from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, where we are targeting about 3,000 students who are going to work with us. Federal Polytechnic Ede is also going to give us about 2,000 students. And out of the about 70 federal establishments in Osun State, we are also having about 1,500 people. So, apparently we don’t have any problem with our ad-hoc staff.
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