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Opinion

Ekiti Elections, Vote-Buying, and the Upcoming 2023 Elections

 

Observer Diary

 

The shouts and rants of who will succeed President Muhammadu Buhari in Aso Rock in 2023 have gained traction in the country in the last few months. First, is the political debacle of his own party primaries and the other is the proliferation and upsurge of other party flag bearers. As a ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) is ensuring to put all hands on deck to ensure they continue to be at the helm of political power in all segments of leadership in the country—the most recent which is Ekiti State.

 

On the 18th of June, the Ekiti State Governorship elections were held, and I was opportune to get access to first-class information and have a firsthand sight of situations as events of the electioneering process got unravelled. Prior to this, I and comity of other colleagues have been lodged at a highly revered hotel in Ekiti for 2-days, for the essence of physical training, and technical know-how—especially on how to manoeuver the several territories in each of the local governments in the state—the dialect, amongst others. This is in addition to a previous 2-day online session held to guide and sensitize election observers as facilitated by the amusing staff of the Center for Journalism, Innovation and Development.

 

In times past, I’ve observed elections for Edo state, Ondo state, and a stint in Anambra and while each of them has their distinct features, none had so much tension—well, except Anambra—as did Ekiti. This is for two reasons: one, the incumbent governor is wrapping up his second term tenure and secondly, the new electoral law that has just been passed will be put into use. This is why the Ekiti election was expected to be testing waters for the buildup of 2023 and other elections to come in the country.

 

According to the CJID election observation schedule, I was a loner, posted to Oye-Ekiti Local Government and I left on the eve of the election. After getting to the local government, I manoeuvred my way into a hotel and lodged for the night. However, before night fell, I made an arrangement with a motorcyclist, Mr Emmanuel, who would take me around the 190 polling units inherent in Oye LGA. I got some food to eat and returned to my hotel room to rest my head in preparation for the huge task ahead. 

 

I woke up to a drenched environment. Apparently, it’d rained over the night. I took my bath, ate and readied myself for the day’s job. My motorcyclist had already gotten ready, waiting for me just outside the hotel. Meanwhile, before hitting the sheets the previous night, I’d carefully checked the polling unit directories as released by the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC) and carefully mapped out how to traverse the entire local government. Oye Local Government has one hundred and ninety polling units spread across 12 wards. These wards include ITAPA/OSIN, OYE I, OYE, II, AYEGBAJU, ILUPEJU I, ILUPEJU II, IRE I, IRE II, AYEDE NORTH, AYEDE SOUTH/ITAJI, ISAN/ILAFON/ILEMESO and OMU-OKE/OMU-ODO/IJELU. It is pertinent to state that the sitting governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, hails from ISAN, Ward 11 and had his vote cast at Unit 09, in front of Apata’s house, Ogilolo. This was my top priority, as reports from Mr Governor’s Polling Unit were expedient on me to get for CJID. So, I put on my INEC-approved Observer tag and set on the touring travails, together with my cyclist.

 

Governor Fayemi Casts His Vote

 

The Governor’s ward was about 40 minutes ride from Oye town. I painstakingly withstood the cold chills of the early morning weather as my motorcyclist sped off the newly tarred expressway. Soon enough, we arrived at a barricade. Alas! It was a military blockade. I explained my mission for the day, and after a few queries, the officer on duty gave way to pass, continuing our sojourn. By exactly 8:20 am, I arrived at Ward 11, ISAN and I had no real difficulty identifying the governor’s polling unit. The INEC ad-hoc staff were already settled and are now expecting the clock of 8:30 am before commencing the election process. Soon enough, the process began and people began to line up, forming a single queue.

 

Mr Governor would later arrive, minutes later, in the company of his wife, Mrs Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi, aides, protocol officers, and a retinue of bodyguards, to cast his votes. I ensured to capture all those events for the CJID without missing the press interview either. Thereafter, I took my leave, to other polling units and wards in the local government.

 

Non-Adherence To Covid-19 Guidelines, Lack Of Priority Voting And The Youths’ Nonchalance

 

Having gone around several polling units which include St Luke Primary School, IMOSI I; in front of ARO’s House, IKUA I, and the open space at ILESI, all under AYEDE SOUTH/ITAJI ward, there were serial sights of noncompliance with COVID-19 guideline provisions. Similarly, at EJIGBO FARM 1 and in front of COOP STORE all in AYEDE NORTH, I was amazed to have seen elderly people and pregnant women who were standing still in the long queue, without anyone giving them the opportunity to cast their votes earlier enough as enshrined in priority voting rights of INEC. 

 

Meanwhile, in the midst of all of these, it was quite pathetic that the youth demography seems to not care about the election process as only a scanty few of them were seen casting votes whilst the majority of others were either on the streets playing football, sitting inside their houses ranting on social media or lurking around ‘joints’ drinking or smoking away their sorrows.

 

Massive Vote-Buying/Selling: “Di ibo k’o se be.”

 

It was midday and my motorcyclist, Mr Emmanuel, had been a force to reckon with in the course of my traversing OYE Local Government. However, he needed to enfranchise his voting rights too and had disturbed me times without number that he needed to go to his polling unit to cast his vote as well. At first, one would think his diligence to the rule of law and patriotism to the electoral process was borne out of his love for state and country, but that wasn’t the case. Instead, he’d proposed to sell his vote to the highest bidder from among the contending political parties that are onsite. 

 

So, we got to his polling unit, and I observed a lot of electoral misdemeanours right there. There were public tussles, shouts and rants about how much each political party is offering the delegates. Rightly so, there’s a near-public voter inducement chants, “Di ibo k’o se be” they’ll say to them which literally translates “vote and get money to cook a pot of soup”. 

 

According to Mr Emmanuel, the APC offered him N10,000; the SDP, N7,000 and the PDP, N5,000 only.

 

“10 kwain ni mo gba nitemi ooo [I collected ten thousand naira]” he happily said, after casting his votes.

 

The Nuances Of The 2023 Elections

 

No doubt, the Ekiti State elections were symbolic of the political discourse surrounding the 2023 general elections. It was indeed a testing ground for what’s to come especially as it regards the implementation of the newly modified electoral laws. While it has the same meaning to the major political parties in Nigeria in terms of vote-buying, selling, and everything surrounding that, it portends a very horrendous implication on the entire Nigerian polity. This is a very bad omen on the growth, development and maturity of our hard-gotten democracy. Given that the nation is at the brink of extreme poverty amidst falling living standards, it’s sad that the situation may become exacerbated come 2023, therefore spelling total doom for the country.

 

Conclusion

 

As a four-time election observer, I, once again, took solace in the opportunity CJID gave me to observe the election process in Ekiti State. It has further opened my eyes and mind to the grey areas of the Nigerian democracy that needs adequate monitoring; the thrills, the peace and violence, the vulnerability of the poor masses, the whims and caprices aiding the voters’ decision-making process, and more importantly, the ripple effect of the entire process on the country’s growth and development. I look forward to another exciting outing in Osun state by July. But in the meantime, let me bask in the euphoria of a successful sojourn in Ekiti because I made a lot of friends, and we need to unwind as we did a lot knowing each other better.

 

DISCLAIMER: This story has been published on Campus Reporter with very minimal editing to preserve the original voice of the author.

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