On October 10, 2020, was the day I had my first experience to observe in an election and this came towards the Ondo Gubernatorial Election. I witnessed a series of events ranging from vote-buying to campaigning of a political party on Election day and lots more in the Ondo Gubernatorial Election.
The whole journey towards my first experience started sometime in July where I was added to the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ) training group chat on WhatsApp. I registered for the training and was selected amongst the lucky Participants to partake in the training from 17th of August to 20th of August with two sessions every day that is Morning and Afternoon on each day. This also gave room for me to volunteer myself alongside other Participants as an observer in the Ondo Gubernatorial Election.
First of all, I will like to appreciate the PTCIJ/YIAGA Africa team for this wonderful opportunity to contribute to the development of the state and nation. I went to the Ondo State Elections as a newbie without experience at previous Elections but having undergone physical training and online training I was well prepared to get my first experience and behold it was a wonderful one.
I was deployed to Ose local government area to observe Elections and behold this look very tasking for me because I have never been to such place or heard about the area. As I only reside in Akure and school at Akungba Akoko.
As the team lead for the local government I had the responsibility of getting to know a lot about the local government as my teammates in persons of Adedoyin Charles and Akinola Feranmi (Who later dropped out) were also new in observing Elections and also not familiar with the place. I got all the information needed online and few people I asked around just to get myself and my team familiar to where we are heading to.
On the 9th of October (A day before Election) myself and my teammate (Adedoyin Charles) having been cleared by the PTCIJ/YIAGA AFRICA Team set out on a journey to our area of deployment, we left as early as 9 am in other to get ourselves used to the environment and the people. We eventually arrived at Ifon the headquarters of Ose LGA at about 12 pm and we began our Pre Election observation which started with the visit to INEC office which also doubles as the Collation Center of the local government to check and see how prepared INEC was regarding the elections and behold they were already deploying materials as at the time we got there with a heavy security presence. Having taken a quick tour around the local government area we found out the people were eager to come out and cast their vote and the atmosphere was generally peaceful as security men were seen moving around.
After our tour around the local government and it’s environs, the bike man that took us round we decided to negotiate with him so as he could take us around the next day be it on Election day. He agreed, and also took us to a nearby hotel which was just a walkthrough from INEC office. Afterwards, I and my teammate decided to retire for the day and get ready for our adventure the next day.
On Election day, the 10th of October 2020. This very day was the day a lot of events kept unfolding as the populace set out to cast their vote and elect a Governor. My teammate had left as early as 6 am cos of the distance and where he decided to observe. I left the lodge as at 7:30 am and went straight to the nearest polling units which was Polling unit 3 in Ward 5 the INEC officials seen were getting set for the Election as the people trooped out and eager to cast their vote. I was able to observe as many polling units I could observe as I was able to cover 5 wards in the local government due to the distance.
However, series of events occurred when I came across some voters lamenting how they were neglected after voting for a party and not given money in return, I thought to myself that am I seeing this for real because I have only heard of vote-buying on media spaces but am witnessing it for the first time. Having seen me as an observer, a voter approach me and start telling me the development that occurred in his polling units which I was seeing whereas people trade their vote In exchange of monetary gains and others while some were used to disrupt the Election process. I was able to witness one house of assembly member who bullies a voter at his polling units just because such voter refused to vote for his party. Another thing I also noticed was the absence of observers in that area as we were only a few deployed to that area hence we could not cover some places.
In conclusion, I must say that INEC has improved in conducting Elections but are the people still ready to have good governance if they continue with this system of vote-buying.
I really want to appreciate PTCIJ for this wonderful opportunity as I was able to gain my first experience and I would love to explore such an opportunity again if it arises. Thank you PTCIJ.
This story has been published on CAMPUS REPORTER with very minimal editing to preserve the original voice of the author.
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