With a heart full of thanks & gratitude for the success of the Edo 2020 election and observation, I write to pen down my observation experience during the just concluded Edo 2020 election.
Here, I’ll be writing on my pre and post-election observation experience. I would first want to thank Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism for the opportunity to gain another experience in Edo state, mind-opening and adventurous.
It all started with a three-day online training of campus journalist fully sponsored and packaged by PTCIJ on zoom.
The training which had the presence of veterans in the field of journalism like Kemi Busari, Idris Akinbanjo, Deji Adekunle, Busola Ajibola, Mboho Eno and the renowned Journalist, the publisher of Premium Times, Dapo Olorunyomi.
Seven facilitators trained all participants on different components of journalism, ranging from how to generate original story ideas, accountability journalism, fact-checking, data journalism, gender-sensitive reporting, telling inclusive stories, safety and security tips for campus journalists.
The need for fact-checking, journalistic ethics and evidence-based reporting were key ingredients for the election observation, the role journalism played in good governance and advancement of democracy was also a keynote and urge to campus journalists to prepare us for the task ahead.
I was deployed to Owan West local government of Edo state as the Team Lead for the LGA, where myself and my teammate, Ayeyemi Deborah, would be observing and reporting the election process. It started with the pre-observation process which already began a month before the Election Day. This process made us do some research about the Local government, notable personalities in the LGA and mapping out of our journey in the area.
On arrival to Sabongida-Ora which is the secretariat of the Owan West LGA, the people of Owan west were very welcoming and I must confess, they are accommodating and lovely people. Major means of transportation in Sabongida was a bike, on getting there, I had a bike man help me locate the collation centre, INEC office and major polling unit in the area. After that was done, the bike man helped me in mapping out the different wards in a particular area and those closer to each other which helped in sharing the task with my teammate. The Owan west LGA consist of Ozalla community ( the Ishan people of Edo state), the Uzebba people, Okpujie, Sobe, Avbiosi, and Uhonmora people. These communities were not close to each other, so we made sure it was shared appropriately and the journey was adequate.
We had to lodge in a hotel closer to the collation centre, so we had the bike man help us locate a nice hotel. Getting to the hotel, we packed and had a little rest, came outside and relate with other people outside. While outside, we got reports that the Owan west people are very violent during elections, especially the Sabo, Ozalla, and Okpujie people. Nevertheless, with some elements of fear, we didn’t let that weigh us down, it gave us the zeal and urge to be very much tactical and observant on Election Day.
The very much anticipated Election Day came with anxiety to observe and report to PTCIJ bearing in mind the training we already had.
Getting to the first polling unit which was the largest PU in that area, election started very late there as the INEC officials forgot to carry along the results sheets. Electorates, party agents and others refused to start voting except it was provided, it caused a little bit of uproar but it was resolved by an INEC official. The election generally did not start as early as stated in Sabongida.
I must not forget to say, that the respect shown to the Election observer is great, the respect to the uniform in some polling unit is much more than the INEC officials.
Moving on to another community, the Ozalla Community, a rural area in Owan West. On getting there, I saw women using Umbrella with the PDP colours in the polling units against the INEC guidelines. Covid-19 prevention guideline by INEC was also not followed in any of the polling units in this area.
I also commend the efforts of the DSS. In Sabongida, where I saw the DSS patrol themselves into the polling units to ensure security and orderliness, although armed, but they were only in patrol. One of the DSS, Mr Folarin, came to meet me as an observer and exchanged number with me to call him in case of emergency in any polling unit.
Moving forward, In the first polling unit in Ozalla Community, I was dragged to a corner by some boys, at this point I was scared but I did not make it obvious at all. In that corner, I met with an APC Chieftain, BIGJOHN who suddenly decamped to PDP overnight and was campaigning for Governor Obaseki. BIGJOHN warned me not to write any bad report concerning the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
In some other polling units, I captured party agents sharing Gala and soft drinks to voters whilst in some other units they were sharing money for selling their votes to them, very sad that this is becoming a norm in Nigeria.
Having said much, we ended the election observation process and counting of votes, had some rest, relaxed, eat then moved to the Collation centre for Observation there also. This was the most peaceful and secured place to be on that Election Day. The security in the hall was top notch, the clearance before entering the hall was also superb. This was where we stayed till midnight.
We then moved to hotels and had a very nice refreshing sleep, and prepare for the journey to our various destination the next day.
Journey back to Akure was fun and adventurous. As there was no motor transport to convey me directly back to Akure, I had to board a bike for a 1-hour journey to Ifon, Ondo state, after which I journeyed back to Akure safely.
Edo 2020 Election was relatively peaceful, free and fair.
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