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Opinion

#EkitiDecides: The Organised Vote-Buying

Observer Diary

The pillars of democracy are built on solid electoral foundations, laws, and guidelines, and as the law of the land has rightly posited that there exists an electioneering process for the essence of electing new leadership in the country, after the termination of an existing one; becoming an election observer sends a chill down my spine as I got engaged in the democratic process. The Ekiti State Gubernatorial was my first, and it encapsulated a whole lot of experience.

 

First Time As An Observer 

 

It was my first time ever being so close to an election process. After a 2-day virtual training with the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development, CJID, I arrived at Prosperous Hotel, Ado-Ekiti to witness the final and physical part of the orientation. Thereafter, I was deployed to Emure Local Government Area which has a total of 16 wards and 93 polling units for the Ekiti state Gubernatorial.

 

I was at first nervous about how not to make mistakes but with a good partner in Caleb Ijioma beside me, I felt relaxed and confident in myself, which made it easier and more enjoyable.



Pre-Election Observation 

 

After Departing the Hotel, we arrived at Emure by 3:11 pm and secured transportation for the next day’s work. We also did some pre-election observation, where we witnessed the Ad-hoc Staff and INEC officials moving the sensitive and non-sensitive items for the election, to their various polling units.

 

As a first-time observer seeing people complain while moving from one hotel to another in search of accommodation I was a bit tense because I couldn’t figure out how exactly I would function properly the next day without having a good night’s sleep. But my partner and I were lucky to get rooms at the first hotel we visited.

 

The D-Day

 

At 7:12 am, we set out and arrived at a checkpoint where the Soldiers planted a barricade, refusing the passage of transporters. They went as far as seizing their bikes asking them to come back for them by 5 pm later that day.

 

Around 7:31 am, my partner and I arrived at our first polling unit which is Ward 1 (Odo-Emure 1), PU004, Near Alabo’s House/Alabo’s Compound. Here, we observed the Ad-hoc Staff observing the COVID-19 protocols amongst themselves, and since they were just setting up, I moved around a bit with my partner to two other polling units in the same ward so I could get a hang of the process.

 

By 7:58 am I got to Ward 07, IDAMUDU 1, PU 010 (In Front of Chief Oloje’s House) on my own so Caleb and I could cover more grounds and here, I barely saw elderly people.

 

Going around on my own and visiting different polling units at 8:30 am, I finally got to Ward 07 (IDAMUDU1), PU 006  (Ogundare) and by this time, as stipulated, Accreditation and Voting had commenced, simultaneously.

 

This was the first ward I suspected vote-buying but it was done in a more organised manner.

The Two men with booklets Taking names of voters after voting and they are not INEC Officials
The Two men with booklets taking names of voters after voting and they are not INEC Officials

Organised Vote-Buying/Lack Of COVID-19 Protocols

 

All the voters had to do was a vote and while sticking the ballot paper in the ballot box, stylishly reveal their votes to the party agents, then put down their names with them to get their money afterwards. Though when this happened, I was not fully aware of what was going on, until I visited other wards and got confirmation from Caleb and my bike man who, as an APC supporter, confirmed to me that they were given 10,000 Naira, while other parties like the SDP and the PDP paid between 2,000-5,000 Naira.

 

Whilst visiting other wards, it was quite visible that the voters were not observing COVID-19 precautions, no adherence to social distancing, and neither was there the use of face masks.

Ad-hoc Staff observing COVID-19 precautions
Ad-hoc Staff observing COVID-19 precautions

The Unexpected 

 

Around 10:49 am, Caleb and I arrived at Ward 06 (Oke emure2) PU 009 (Oge Primary School/Igbooge). The previous information we got was that Emure is a one-town LGA. However, after bidding bye to Emure, we arrived at another town called Oge-Ile, which is an extension under Emure. The discovery couldn’t have been possible but for the help of our driver, especially because that was his polling unit where he voted. After exercising his franchise, we visited another polling unit where I observed a lot of Igbo-speaking people.

 

Oge-Ile was quite a distance from Emure so, when we got back into town to keep visiting other wards, at about 11:44 am, voting was almost done.

 

Later, we got to Ogbontioro 1 where we visited about three polling units before deciding to relax and replenish our energy with wraps of Fufu and a very delicious Okra soup. By the time we were done, voting had already ended and we began the second phase of our job—observing vote sorting, counting, and announcement of election results.

 

Vote Sorting, Counting, And Announcement Of Election Results

 

Due to low turnouts in most wards, vote sorting and counting did not take much time. Hence, most of the polling units were already done and had pasted the results. I witnessed two live vote sorting and counting at 2:58 pm Ward 06 (Oke Omure 2), Pu 005 (Dare Osare’s compound), and at 3:52 pm Ward 4 (Odo Emure4), PU 006 ( Moyegun’s Compound).

 

Around 4:58 pm, we arrived at the Local Government, awaiting the collation of all RA results. By this time, the Ad-hoc staff of different wards were already arriving, to prepare for results collation.

 

At about 6:08 pm, the Supervising Presiding Officers were already collecting Voter Registers from each unit per ward to begin collation; and just by the same time, our driver called from outside to tell me he was going home as he doesn’t have enough fuel to take us back to the hotel because he was not able to get more.

 

My Local Government had the least number of wards and was, therefore, the first to finish collation. At 8 pm, the entire process was concluded, and this worked in our favour because we did not need to stress about getting dinner and transportation back to our lodge at St. Mary, Emure.

 

Conclusion

 

It was a very tiring day, but I enjoyed every bit of the election observation process conducted. The CJID administrators were warm and gave timely checks to ensure my safety. The Ekiti State election was my first, and I’m glad I did my best as a patriotic Nigerian citizen. If given the opportunity one more time, I’ll gladly jump on it and do even 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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