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Opinion

#EkitiDecides: The ‘Ilejemeje’ Experience in Ekiti State

Observer Diary

I travelled all the way from Abeokuta to observe the Ekiti state gubernatorial election for the Centre for Journalism Innovation & Development (CJID). As an observer, my duty is to observe the electioneering process.

 

I was deployed to ILEJEMEJE local government, Ekiti North, Ekiti state. I didn’t go alone, I went with Olatunji Oluwayomi, who is a first-time observer. We moved to our area of coverage a day before the election for the pre-election observation.

 

On Friday, 17th June 2022, we arrived at the Local government INEC office. Surprisingly, all sensitive materials and INEC officials including the corp members have been moved to their RAs unlike past experiences in states like Anambra, Kogi, and Ogun state where sensitive materials and the officials in charge were left stranded at the Local government INEC office.

 

My partner and I secured accommodation and transportation. The ILEJEMEJE local government has ten(10) wards. We shared the wards amongst ourselves which I picked more since my partner had no prior experience. 

 

On Saturday,18th June, the anticipated election day finally came. At 6:00 am, we were already set for the task ahead, as we awaited our bike. Unfortunately, one of them chose not to come but we later got to know that he was an agent at his polling unit. He forfeited the transportation offer and went to his polling unit at Ilugun as an agent. We later got a new bike for my partner.

 

My first polling unit of the visit was P.U 01, Iye 1, a P.U that is closer to where we were lodged. At 6:20 am, the corp members were on the ground with the sensitive materials without the presence of the security personnel. While I was moving around, I noticed that many residents were loitering around, playing football on the street, making it difficult for Observers and INEC officials to converge to their places of assignment. 

 

I covered the Iye 1; Iye 2 and Iye 3 wards respectively before moving to other wards. I noticed that all was set before the voters’ registration commenced. The polling unit atmosphere was conducive for the electorates before the electioneering process commenced. For instance, at 7: 37am, all was set at the P.U 11, Ikoro 2, Iye 1.

 

At 8:30 am, the voters’ registration had commenced alongside voting in some polling units. For instance, at the P.U 10, Ikoro 1, Iye 1 ward, voter registration and voting commenced at 8:30 am. 

 

At 10:20 am in P.U 2, Iye 3, voter registration alongside voting had commenced in the Polling unit. In this polling unit, it was observed that underage voters were registered, and were allowed to cast their votes. These people were seen loitering around, waiting for the party agents after they had cast their votes.

 

Also, this same act occurred at P.U 5, Ijesha Modu, Ilejemeje. There, underaged children were seen in the queue casting their votes. I walked up to one of them to inquire about her age, unfortunately, the information she provided does not correlate with what she had on her PVC.

 

Priority Given

 

The elderly, People With Disabilities (PWDs), and pregnant women were given preference at every polling unit under Ilejemeje wards. They were allowed to cast their votes before others. This made the elderly come out en masse to cast their votes. Pregnant women and people with disabilities were not left out.

 

Low Turnout: An Avenue For Vote-Buying

 

Ilejemeje local government had ten (10) wards. Each of these wards had records of low turnout. However, different party agents later seize such opportunities to mobilize people- the elderly and youths- in order to have more votes. Many voters sold their votes as they were offered a certain amount by the party agents. The APC party agents offered a sum of #10,000 to each voter. 

 

For example, at Ikoro 1, P.U 10, Iye ward 1, at 11 am in the morning, the INEC officials were idle, expecting more voters to turn up at the polling unit. During this period, area boys occupied the area with bottles and sachets of dry gin. One of them harassed me asking for my mission at the polling unit. I noticed he was drunk, so I reached out to the security operatives immediately. 

 

Also, at Ikoro 2, P.U 11, Iye ward 1, the officers on duty were seen chatting since there was no voter at the polling unit. 

 

At 2:30 pm, voting ended and counting of votes commenced in all polling units across the 10wards. After the results had been announced at each polling, all polling unit results were taken to the RAs. Afterwards, they were brought to the Ilejemeje Local government INEC office for total collation. The collation process was fast at the Local government. There was provision for a projector where all results were displayed. 

 

 The just-concluded Ekiti election shows that Nigeria is still lagging behind in ensuring a free-fair election. Money reigned on the electorates on election day. Voters sold their votes at the polling units. The electorates should not be intimidated, instead, they should be allowed to cast their votes for their preferred candidates.

 

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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