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Opinion

#EkitiDecides: My Experience Amidst Voter Apathy, Security Fears in Efon LGA

Observer Diary

On June 18, electorates in Ekiti state trooped out to choose who should triumph at the Guber Poll. Fortunately, Mr Biodun Ayobami Oyebanji, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) pulled the highest votes of 187,057; while his opponents, Bisi Kolawole (PDP) and Segun Oni (SDP), went home with 67,457 and 82,209 votes, respectively.

 

However, in his voyage as an election observer at Efon LGA, courtesy of the Centre for Journalism and Innovative Development (CJID, formerly PTCIJ), this reporter discovered that different factors contributed to the final outcome.

 

Pre-election experience

 

Hopes were rife that the election will go smoothly with fewer tussles. In contrast to previous electoral violence in the state, residents felt at ease in anticipation as preparations were in place to ensure the safety of lives and properties after security officers were deployed to quell any possible threat.

 

On my arrival at the local government INEC office at 3 pm on June 17, I found security persons heavily present, some armed. Electoral officers were already sorting out materials to be used for the election, all awaiting logistics and distribution.

 

After securing accommodation and chartering a bike man to convey me throughout the election day, I returned to the INEC office to observe the deployment of materials and officials across the local government, which ended by 6:28 pm. 

 

Before retiring for the day, I had spoken with my bike man after a hint that Mr Bisi Kolawole -PDP’s gubernatorial candidate- is from Efon LGA. Our findings revealed that he will be voting at Ward 08, Polling Unit 001 (Front of Sakeju’s house, Ojodi 1).

Election officials awaiting deployment across Efon LGA
Election officials awaiting deployment across Efon LGA
Security persons receiving instructions before deployment
Security persons receiving instructions before deployment

The D-Day

 

It started on a bad note as my bike man played a fast one on me. However, I had to charter another bike man at an extra cost, considering the urgency of the work at hand.

 

My journey throughout the local government was peaceful. I enjoyed a good rapport with the security officers present, with few exceptions at some polling units. 

 

The election officials attended to their duties diligently, adhering to the provisions of the Electoral Act regarding priority voting for the elderly and the use of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAs).

The PDP's Governorship candidate, Mr Bisi Kolawole, addressing the pressmen
The PDP’s Governorship candidate, Mr Bisi Kolawole, addressing the pressmen

Beyond the voting

 

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) must be commended for a job well done at the poll. Compared to previous years, adequate provisions were made for the distribution and accessibility of election materials along with security persons. 

 

Also, there was no manipulation of votes as all election processes were followed through by the electorates.

 

However, the Ekiti election shows how rotten our mindset is. The onus is no longer on the electoral body to ensure effective election, but on the electorates to choose based on competence.

 

Nepotism played a serious role in the final outcome as electorates were calculating how much gain they would expect if their son emerged triumphant. With this much pressure on his shoulder, it is undeniable that his judgement will be biased in favour of his kinsmen.

 

On a grand scale, nepotism has contributed to the political and economic decadence we are experiencing in Nigeria as competent hands are sidelined for relatives, leaving the nation to pay for such inefficacy.

 

Money can do all things, including buying voters’ conscience. Illiteracy should not be blamed, nor should poverty suffer the brunt. Voters chose the highest bidder, just like the delegates across most parties did at the Presidential primaries. 

This truth started staring me in the eye right from the moment I boarded a cab conveying me to my assigned local government, as the driver boasted that he would not mind voting more than twice if allowed.

 

Also of note is the trend to spread fear prior to election day. The bye-election -held in March last year- witnessed much violence that led to death and injuries. As a result, voter turnout was way below expectations with a total vote of 360, 753 -out of which 8, 888 votes were rejected- deciding the political fates of 989, 224 registered voters in a state of more than 3.2 million citizens, as of 2016.

 

This fear was the sole reason my previous bike man chose self-defence, stating that the community miscreants had already given a warning of possible violence in the local government. 

 

In the end, there were more elderly persons than youth at the poll. It was after the tension had been doused that a middle-aged woman rushed to Ward 03, Polling Unit 006 (Front of Olobo’s house) to cast her vote as of 2:05 pm.

The late electorate getting accredited
The late voters getting accredited

Conclusion

 

Elections are beyond social media. With the news from the Ekiti poll, it is clear that the nation, and her youths precisely, have much to do in implementing credibility to electoral activities. 

 

There is a need to intensify campaigns for active political participation among the youths. Also, the fight against vote-buying should be intensified as politicians are no longer into violent practices during elections.

 

If we can implement these, the stake will be high on a fair electoral process that will bring about the right leader.

 

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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