On the 21st of March 2022, I enrolled to be an observer at the Ekiti State Governorship Election. A few months later, I made the list of shortlisted observers accredited by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
A two-day training program was subsequently organised by the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (formerly PTCIJ) to prepare us ahead of the governorship polls.
Election observation is a civic responsibility expected of journalists and I did not take this opportunity for granted because it was my way of promoting democracy and restructuring the society. I put away all my fears and summoned the courage to take on this challenging task. After the online training, I prepared for my journey to Ekiti.
I left home as early as possible in the company of colleagues travelling from Lagos, Ologun Oluwatosin and Hamzat Mariam. We arrived in Ekiti at around 3 pm due to the traffic and joined the CJID team and other observers at Prosperous Royal Hotel where a final briefing would take place.
At 8 pm when all had arrived, Mr Mboho welcomed everyone for this special assignment and explained the mode of deployment to our various local governments. In our midst was a special guest, Mr Kayode Babatuyi, Secretary to the Nigerian Union of Journalists, Ekiti State Chapter who explained the terrain and history of Ekiti, as well as border areas. In an attempt to ease our tension and fears, he told us how peaceful and accommodating the people of Ekiti are. He further said that thousands of security operatives had been deployed to Ekiti to ensure a smooth run of the elections.
At the end of the info session that night, our assigned local governments were announced. I would be working alongside Muktar Balogun in Moba local government area.
On Friday 17th June, my partner and I left for Moba LGA. Upon arrival, we went to the INEC office for our pre-election observation to see how preparations were going. All officials looked out for their names on the approved list of INEC officials and their Registration Area Centre (RAC). The security was tight as Police accompanied officials to their respective RAC.
My partner and I left the INEC office for Otun-Ekiti where we secured accommodation at His Mercy Tender hotel which is close in proximity to the INEC office. After freshening up, I retired for the night.
On the D-Day, I woke up very early to start the day’s activities. My partner and I divided the Wards in our LGA for observation. I visited two Wards, Otun 1 and 2 where I was able to observe six polling units. Meanwhile, my partner ensured that I was not far away from him, being a first-timer.
Ekiti election opened my eyes to so many ills in the country. The turnout of voters in all polling units showed the limitations in electoral participation with a higher percentage of aged ones (in their 60s), men and women with low voter education who could not know how to vote unless they were assisted. Then I wondered how this high rate of illiteracy would not lead to the rejection of some votes. It is also noteworthy that the elderly ones arrived earlier than the youths.
An hour after the commencement of the election at a polling unit, there was commotion because of a breach in the electoral process as agents moved closer to voters in an attempt to induce them into voting for their party. A swift intervention from the security personnel thereafter rescued the situation.
Vote buying was predominant at the polling units I visited and in fact, the main highlight of my observation. Since the security personnel would not allow the trading of votes at the polling unit, many were seen at the gate negotiating which party to vote for.
I overheard two old women in their conversation saying “at least I will be able to cook with N5000 today” in an excited mood, although I was unable to confirm the party giving them money. These poverty-stricken electorates were more concerned about satisfying their immediate needs which made it easier for agents to take advantage of this vulnerability. As news of vote-buying reached the nooks and crannies, voters trooped out in numbers, both young and old. In my opinion, a hungry man will not miss an opportunity such as this, where money is distributed without stress.
Voting ended by 2:30 pm and counting began after the sorting of ballots by the officials. After a very hectic day on the field, I headed to the INEC office where the final collation was done. Throughout the observation process, my partner and I made sure to check on each other every 20mins. As much as I needed the energy to carry out my activities, I made sure that I did not skip lunch. A Yoruba adage says, “Okun inu ni a fi n gbe ti ta” which translates loosely to: “Inner strength gotten from food is needed to work.”
The collation of results ended around 9 pm and results were announced. APC emerged winner at MOBA local government.
My partner and I eventually got drenched in the rain that night as we headed for our hotel. It was a really great experience for me to observe the Ekiti State Governorship election as I was exposed to the extreme poverty in Nigeria.
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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