Claim: A Twitter user states that Prof Babagana Zulum, the governor of Borno State, bought voters’ cards of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) ahead of the 2023 elections.
Verdict: The submission that Prof Zulum bought voters’ cards of IDPs ahead of the 2023 elections is false. The alleged video depicts a distribution of goods and money to IDPs and flood victims in Damboa in July 2022.
Borno, a state in the northeastern parts of Nigeria, has been ravaged by conflict between terrorists and government forces since 2009. As a result, millions have been rendered homeless and forced to find shelter at Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps spread within and outside the state.
In 2019, Professor Babagana Zulum was voted as the governor of Borno State under the All Progressives Congress (APC), a political party that took over power in 2015 with the mandate to restore order and peace in the regions and across Nigeria. He is now seeking a second term in office in 2023.
Recently, a video surfaced on Twitter alleging that the governor is buying off the voter cards of IDPs in their camps. The video featured a man wearing a caftan with a cap that bears the inscription “ZULUM 2023” alongside another person in a security outfit distributing what appears to be naira notes to an assemblage of people seated row after row.
One user, Evars Hair (@EOguguah), who tweeted the video, alleged that it depicted an exchange of voter’s card for money in an IDP camp ahead of the 2023 elections.
“Because they’re all manipulating!!! Exchange of voter’s card for money in an IDP CAMP by ZULUM (the governor of Borno State) 2023 representatives,” the user wrote.
Dr Ope Banwo, a popular Nigerian celebrity known as “Ali Baba,” seems to agree with the claim. He tweeted the video expressing shock with rhetorical questions while calling on President Muhammadu Buhari and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to take action over the alleged situation. His post attracted over 300,000 reactions with over 60,000 views and diverse comments.
“Seriously? Somebody, please tell me it’s not Voters Card they are selling for N500 like this in the north? With full chest? In public? Where is INEC? Where is Buhari? What,” Ali baba tweeted alongside the alleged video.
Apparently, this is not the first time the video has gone viral. In early December 2022, the video was shared on Nairaland, an interactive information-sharing website with over four million active users.
Back in July 2022, the video was also shared on Twitter with the same narrative, amassing a plethora of reactions and views from online users.
Vote buying is one of the major problems affecting the quality of elections in Nigeria. In previous elections, several allegations of voter card purchases by political parties have been made. As such, the general outlook around this assertion signals a lack of trust by Nigerian voters in the electoral process, a problem that, if allowed, could crumble the quality of the 2023 elections.
To ascertain the tweet’s veracity, DUBAWA first tried to track the earliest appearance of the alleged video online. Using keyframes extracted by the InVid video verification tool, the earliest version of the video was traced to a TikTok account with the user @honhabu. It was posted on July 27, 2022, with no caption or narration.
The TikTok account also contains several pictures and videos of the same man seen in the alleged video sharing money. DUBAWA found that the man is Habu Daja, a serving member of the Borno State House of Assembly, representing Damboa Constituency.
When DUBAWA reached out to Mr Daja via a phone call regarding the video, his aide, Mohammed Baba, said that the video was taken during a visit to the IDP camp in Damboa, where the Governor shared money and other necessities to IDPs and flood victims.
“No, this is not even recent. The video was taken during the Governor’s visit to Damboa on July 25, 2022. His Excellency and honourable (Daja) shared money and other materials with the people.”
As regards the acclaimed voter’s card, Mr Baba said they were not voters’ cards but special vouchers given to IDPs and the flood victims to facilitate equitable sharing.
“It is not a voter’s card. They are special vouchers given to IDPs and victims across the state to aid proper sharing and prevent double rationing, which was common before the card system was introduced,” he said.
But did governor Zulum visit IDP camps in Damboa on July 25, 2022?
On the official Facebook page of the “Governor of Borno State,” a press statement was released on July 25, 2022, that details a visit by the Governor to meet with IDPs and flood victims in the Damboa local government area of Borno State.
The report, “Flood: Zulum in Damboa, shares N172m, food to 30,436 residents,” described how the governor and his entourage shared money and materials with IDPs and flood victims in Damboa on the same date as the one stated by Mr Baba.
Pictures shared alongside the press statement appear to align with the alleged video. A man standing behind the governor in an image shared alongside the press statement is also identified in the alleged video; see figure 2.
Figure 1: An image shared with the statement on the official Facebook of the Governor captured a man standing behind Governor Zulum. In figure 2, taken from the alleged video, the same man is also distributing money in the background.
Both figures 1 and 2 show that the alleged video was actually taken during the governor’s visit to Damboa on July 25, 2022, and not fraudulent voter card-buying sessions ahead of the 2023 elections.
DUBAWA also unearthed another video on Facebook about Governor Zulum’s visit to Damboa. It featured the man in caftan in the alleged video sharing money. Figure 3 below shows the man in the alleged video in this separate video about the governor’s visit to Damboa.
In another video, an IDP woman is seen holding some money and a voucher card.
Job Kaltho, a humanitarian officer working with Mercy Corps, described the voucher as humanitarian cards with special security features normally shared with IDPs’ who have been identified as eligible for food and cash tokens.
Mr Kaltho said, “The cards were introduced three years ago to identify fake IDPs who usually penetrate camps and take food and cash meant for genuine IDPs.
“As such, the cards also guard against double rations collected by some IDPs who sell out food to exploitative marketers that highly underpay the IDPs.”
He laughed at the possibility of cards being voter cards and explained that most humanitarian workers in Borno know about the cards. “It made sharing things to a large and decorated crowd possible,” Kaltho says.
In one of the pictures shared alongside the Governor’s statement on his official Facebook page, a crowd of women was seen waving the cards.
Additionally, several news reports by credible news organisations like TVC reported Governor Zulum’s visit to Damboa on July 25, 2022, using the same pictures as the one on the Press statement shared on the official Facebook page of the governor.
There is no report by any credible media supporting the conduct in the alleged video. The claim is false, and the scene in the video was simply a distribution of money and vital goods to IDPs and victims of flood in the Damboa Local Government area of Borno state.