Observing three gubernatorial elections in Nigeria has left me with similar experiences. However, this year’s Ekiti guber election was different. It happened on my 22nd birthday.
I ditched my emotions for the job
After a 2-day all-encompassing virtual training and a 1-day physical orientation session, the over twenty election observers prepared by the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID) became set for their upcoming adventures. After being commissioned at Friday noon, my partner and I set out for our place of assignment – Ikere Ekiti Local Government Area.
I was paired with Pelumi Olajiga, a female journalist who has also been my friend since 2021. This consequently made it easier to work as a team. At about 3:40 pm, we arrived, sorted out our accommodation, and negotiated with a commercial motorcyclist who shall transport us for Saturday’s observation. We further visited key locations and noted escape landmarks in case of emergencies. We ate and were prepared for the job.
“…happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you,” songs followed the beautiful voice at the end of the call that woke me up. It was already 5:30 AM and my friends had started calling to shower their best wishes.
At that point, I became worried. “How will I not lose focus?” I questioned myself.
I prayed and decided to be hard on myself. “I will not pick up calls or open any chat till Ikere’s election results are collated,” I concluded.
Security personnel beg politicians for money
It was 11:20 am and accreditation with voting had commenced simultaneously at every polling unit I had visited.
Along the road that leads to a polling unit very close to the palace of Ogoga Ikere Kingdom, the former Deputy Governor of Ekiti state, Olusola Eleka, was caught on camera, asking a man who carried a backpack filled with money to give a number of security officials some money.
Police and Civil Defence officers had left their duty post at Oisa Alada Hall, Ward 2 Okeruke, PU 009, and ran after the politician when he passed with some men. After hailing and cajoling him, they got some amount of money and shared it among themselves.
I pretended to be making a phone call while I captured the moments with my smartphone.
Before this politician passed, a man who identified himself as an SDP representative was begging the security officials to accept “N3,000” each from him.
“That is the amount we have been giving other security men,” he pleaded. It was when they were complaining that the politician passed with his entourage and they quickly ran after him.
Vote trading is now advanced
It was 11:39AM at Polling Unit 009 Oisa Alada Hall, Ward 02 Okeruku.
Inside a house located behind the hall, women, men and elderly people were seen rushing in and out with their PVCs to receive payment for their votes.
Before going inside, a slender woman wearing a black round-neck t-shirt collected their PVCs and takes them in before permitting them to go in.
When asked, some of the beneficiaries said that they were given N7000 each by APC people.
Security personnel threaten party agents
“We will stop working unless you give us more money! How can you people be that heartless?! We have been here since morning. Other parties gave us more…” Those were the words that pulled my attention as I arrived at Polling Unit 008, Health Centre, Oke-Oriro II, ward 10 Afao/Kajola. It was twenty-four minutes past noon and the policemen attached to the polling units were angry, threatening to leave if party agents failed to increase their money.
Following that, the three female ADHOC staff who had stopped accreditation also protested their low pay. They threatened to stop work, claiming that the money PDP gave them is small compared to other parties who gave them “N20,000”.
While some electorates begged them to “accept it like that,” others shouted at them for their threats.
After minutes of pleading, the male and female officers lowered their voices and started discussing with some party agents at a corner.
However, the ADHOC staff immediately continued with accreditation after I introduced myself as an observer from INEC.
Results collation, a good improvement
Unlike the November 2021 Anambra election that took several hours of sitting inside the cold and watching as one number was added to another, the rapid coalition of Ikere Ekiti LGA results took me by surprise.
At 7:00 PM, I arrived at the collation centre with Pelumi with the intention of staying till daybreak. Before then, we had bought snacks and water to stay hydrated throughout the supposed long night.
However, I was stunned and could not stop talking about it after the election results were collected and displayed in less than three hours. Having reported the results, we left the venue at 9:45 pm and headed to our lodge, exhausted.
After that, it was another long night for me and I smiled even in my sleep. Why? It was my birthday.
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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