The Edo State election was one of the most sought after since the coming to power of President Muhammadu Buhari, but evidently the 2020 election in that state was a show of the democratic process, where people expected a violence-filled election in Edo State.
I observed the election in Edo State, working for YIAGA Africa and Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism to bring transparency and accountability as we as ensuring a credible election.
Serving as a Domestic Observer in #Edodecides came with several experiences both positive and the other sides.
I had arrived a day before (on a Friday) in Ubiaja, the headquarters of the local government. On that Friday (18th of September 2020) we visited the INEC Local Government office where election materials were being distributed to Presiding Officers (POs) and Assistant Presiding Officers (APOs). I monitored the sharing of sensitive materials to corp members.
Early Saturday morning (on election day), I set off to cover the local government assigned to me – ESAN Southeast. On the election day, I was dressed up in my jacket with the inscription “Domestic Observer” and my cap alongside nose-mask- in a bid to obey the COVID-19 rules.
I knew it was going to be a long day, so all preparations were on the ground. Our first stop was the INEC Local government office in Ubiaja. My teammates and I went our different ways. Polling Unit 03 and 04 under Ward 07 Ubiaja 2 (Ukpiaja Primary School) were my first visit but unfortunately, as at 8 am, there were no electoral officers.
I left for Ward 06 Ubiaja 1 and headed straight to Polling Unit 02, 03, 04 and 05 (Main Eguare Central Primary School). At this Polling Unit, electoral officers were set and waiting for voters to commence the process as at 8 am. There was a rule of “No Nose-mask, No Voting” as the PO addressed the voters while I observed.
I saw voters trying to search for their facemasks and those who had none were seeking where to get one. Luckily, a young boy was sharing nose-masks just behind the queue. On his back was written “COVID19 Compliance Team.”
In one of the Polling Units, some party agents were sent away because their party name wasn’t on the ballot paper.
My bike man travelled in a distance of over 1 hour while trying to locate Ewohimi 1 and 2 (Ward 01 and Ward 02 respectively). At last, we got there, these were remote villages with poor network service but it was all worth it so I continued my duty to monitor the election process.
All the wards witnessed serious problems. First, it was party agents not cooperating with POs; the second was the overcrowding of voters; third was the uncontrollable act of the voters and many more.
There was also disagreement over the inactive nature of the card reader. Yes, some card readers didn’t work at first. But later they did.
Beaten by rain, beaten by the sun, I still made it to the INEC collation centre in my LG––Girls Model Secondary School Ubiaja. I and my team slept in the Collation Centre because they finished late at night around 1 am and our hotel had locked us out.
I could remember the Collation Officer ordered the Police to chase everyone away from the hall when the Local Government results were about to be collated, but I spoke to him and he allowed us.
It was surprising to see the unity amongst the Edo State People and how they stood with their votes.
The collation continued and it lasted for several hours after which the winner was announced and party agents signed the election result.
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