At first, I thought the group of men and women that had gathered a few metres away were another polling unit being set up, but the noise and the tumult attracted my attention.
I went over to them and discovered it was something much more sinister.
A woman was jubilating, she said: “The ruling APC party is sharing clothes and money for us to vote for them!”
There was another woman, dressed in a green covering, sharing out bolts of cloth and had a handful of cash she was handing out notes from.
This was vote buying, happening in the open, just yards away from the official polling unit, at Bulama Bukar II in Mairi ward, just opposite Mairi Islamic Secondary School in Maiduguri.
I quickly brought out my phone to film what I could.
I was scared, It felt like the crowd all turned in my direction. Indeed it was a scary feeling.
The APC ruling party focal person responsible for the distribution of the wrappers and money spotted me from a distance.
He got back into his black Toyota, which had no plate number for identification, and drove away.
The crowd all turned to my direction, seeing me as the bad egg for their day merriment and that forced me to quickly leave the polling unit.
Vote buying seemed to be the trending story in some polling units, but yet, it was not widely reported.
I heard of another instance of vote buying at another polling unit in the same ward, only this time it didn’t go to plan.
A voter told me how the focal person assigned to their polling unit hijacked the goods they were meant to disperse, they refused to share.
She told me “The ruling party APC focal person refuses to give us the items and not even a cooking salt was given to us as expected and which I promise not to vote for the party likewise other women at the polling unit”
“We all agreed to vote out the ruling party APC because we are tired of their leadership!”
Elsewhere a party agent gathered some women to one side of the building and discussed with them how he would give them wrappers and money for them to vote for their party. But, he told them, he would have to give them later, due to the crowd and opposition party presence at the polling units.
I was told that some women accepted the offer, while others rejected it, saying that several times during elections party agents made promises only to hijack those items.
Overall, the 2023 presidential election seems to have had a low rate of vote buying in most of the polling units across the Maiduguri.
This was probably a result of the new naira note policy by the CBN, which has rendered most of the politicians cashless and not having access to withdrawing more cash to buy votes.
The independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, clearly states the law. Offences involving vote buying have a penalty, a fine of N500,000, or imprisonment for 12 months.
But the word among some voters was that politicians used an alternative approach to vote buying, voters were asked to secretly snap a picture of the ballot paper for confirmation. Then party agents will later transfer money to a bank account and give them the promised wrappers, and food.
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