The mere thought of monitoring an election did give me some chills. Then PTCIJ/CJID gave me a chance.
Being one of the accredited observers for the Ekiti state gubernatorial election was a big accomplishment for me.
It was generally an awesome experience.
The academic session was off due to the ASUU strike so I was able to talk to families and friends physically. The reaction from my brother almost threw me off balance at first but I was determined to inform the old folks anyway. Their major concern was the nation’s security, something I had also pondered on. Good news, dad was quick to change his mind and support my decision, and mum, well, was just being a typical African mother. After some back and forth with the intention to convince and not confuse, they agreed only after promising them I’d abide by the rules set forth by the election monitoring group I’d be working with.
Being a student at the Ekiti State University, arriving a few days before the election wasn’t a bad idea. Travelled, got settled, and reminisced the good school days, while looking forward to the election.
Getting started with the goosebumps
PTCIJ/CJID organised a 2-day virtual session to address all election-related issues and to keep us in the know about how to run a successful election observation process. The sessions were engaging for about 20 selected observers as we all got familiar with election monitoring tools, and the expected dos and don’ts. Between June 14 and 15, the well-versed session handlers did a lot of explaining on:
- Fact-checking in practice
- Rudiments and ethics of journalism
- Multimedia journalism in election observation and reporting
- Security in elections observation
- Laws and guidelines of election changes brought by the new 2022 Electoral Act
- Rules of election and observation
I arrived at the lodge on Thursday 16 and met with fellow observers. There was a physical gathering that evening and everyone got acquainted with their partner for the monitoring job. That evening was what you could call a round-up session for us and you could feel the election atmosphere as the night quickly went by.
A good partner meant better results
Kareem Azeez Itunu, an alumnus of Lagos State University had monitored about four elections so it was a huge relief when I discovered we were partners stationed to cover selected voting areas. We had met briefly during a journalism convention, meaning getting acquainted wouldn’t be any problem. While setting out, we both shared the motivation that we would enjoy the adventure. And just as he assured me, what followed was a string of interesting events.
All observers had to retrieve their election materials at the Independent National Electoral Commission’s office on Friday. Later that day, we bade farewell to ourselves as we departed for our respective stations. For me and Kareem, Gboyin Local Government would be our new lodge for the next two days.
Few hours on foot in Gboyin
The road experience was not bad but it was a long one. When we finally arrived around three, we thought our rest was close until we had to struggle with settling down. Sorting logistics was easy. Accommodation, on the other hand, came with a bit of stress.
At 7 in the evening and we were yet to find any available hotel. Most guesthouses were either filled with party supporters or operatives sent to provide security during the election. Finally, we were helped by a bike-man who conveyed us to an inn, where the managers were pitiful to our situation and saved the day. It got better when I discovered the inn was a stone’s throw from the INEC office.
Just before settling down, we had to observe the distribution of election materials at the INEC office. It went rather fast and we retired to our lodge for a good night’s sleep before we marched out the following morning.
A call from home woke me up around 5 in the morning. By 6, I and my partner were in front of the INEC office, saw the distribution of election materials, and went to our monitoring stations within the local government. I would cover four wards out of ten. I had a bike-man transport me to the first polling unit in Ward 1 Egbe/Oro, a ward with 15 polling units. Perhaps it was too early to get started at 6:40 AM but I didn’t intend to miss any bit of the election process. It was going to be a long day but even I came prepared.
I started recording some arrivals including the SPO. I moved around the several polling units while sending necessary reports as expected. I never knew walking around could be part of the “interesting adventure.”
INEC officials were doing their thing across the polling units in the Ward but I wasn’t sure if the COVID-19 regulations displayed were for show or if everyone had forgotten the virus still exists. It was relieving to see the elderly and people with disabilities enjoying voting preferences.
I didn’t forget to have a good meal for breakfast.
The adventure continued while I kept sending reports as directed.
The election ended mostly on a good note and collations were quite fast. I caught up with the election officials at the INEC office for general collation. The election method made the whole process fast and less stressful for everyone involved.
I and my partner were, at first, denied entrance into the INEC premises. Allegations of unruly behaviour by Nigerian security officers might be true after all. Access was only granted when we spoke with an understanding official.
Collation, no stress, no fuss
By 7 PM, the collation of results had commenced at the INEC office in Gbonyin LGA.
The collation began with the presence of the Election Supervisor, CSRVS officer (Collation Support and Result Verification System), ten Registration Area Collation officers, observers, party agents, security officers, and other INEC officials.
Around 8.30, the collation of results had ended and we retreated to the lodge. This reporter was neither harassed nor arrested. Finding a transport home became almost impossible until a policeman politely invited us to their van. It was a long day.
I am glad to have been part of this journey, and more importantly, it was fulfilling to have completed it. PTCIJ /CJID made the experience a great one and that would remain evergreen.
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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