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My Experience As An Election Observer

No event occurs in a void. One event is certainly related to others and nearly all things are interrelated. I witnessed this same assertion playing out practically in the just concluded Ondo State Gubernatorial Election. Of course, the Ondo Guber Election 2020 occurred amidst a cluster of events which included, majorly, the art and practice of vote-buying.

It all started somehow.

The whole journey started on the 7th day of July 2020 when I received calls from Temitope Samuel Akinmoladun and Timilehin P. Abayomi – both of which are Acting Coordinator, PT-FUTA Campus Journalism Training and Co-Founder of InsideFUTA respectively. I know both individuals as the icons of Campus Journalism in my school and their calls on this day had this similar purpose. They had called to confirm my readiness in participating in a training organised by PTCIJ – to which I responded affirmatively.

I registered for the training which spanned between 10th August through 13th August 2020. Then, I had the opportunity to volunteer (alongside other participants) as an observer in the Edo and Ondo Guber elections.

My Experience As An Observer; The Events As They Unfolded

Although I observed in the Edo Poll, I didn’t have a full experience. Probably because that was my first time. Then, leveraging on the insights I gained from Edo Election, I went ahead for the October 10 Ondo Guber Election with much enthusiasm and preparedness. I left my home town (Oyo) on Thursday 8th October alongside a co-observer, Hammed Sheriffdeen Oladimeji. We started the journey together but we had to part ways at a point because we were observing in separate LGs. He went to Akoko South-East while I went ahead to Akoko North East Local Government of Ondo State.

The first of the most important experiences I had was with my colleague and team lead, Caleb Ijioma. I learnt practical teamwork and empathy, I experienced compassion and I learnt from his leadership capacity. Although we lodged separately, we were not cut off at any time. He lodged in a hotel while I preferred to stay amidst the residents of the grass root of Ikare Akoko. Both of our decisions worked well for the success of the team.

My stay with a resident of Ikare (who knows the environment well) worked great for me as I did not stress before getting important pieces of information about the place. My host was the one who negotiated with my bike man and described the entire area to him, after which he provided me with important information about notable individuals in the LG and their respective Polling Units.

On Friday 9th October, the assignment started with a pre-election observation. I firstly visited a religious congregation to observe the kind of speeches the public was being fed with. It was a Jumat Congregation at Ikare Central Mosque and the congregants were advised by their leader to embrace peace and avoid any sort of violence.

Then, I proceeded with Mr Caleb Ijioma (my team lead) to the INEC Office in Akoko North East. We witnessed the preparations in the deployments against the election that was coming up the following day. After this, we retired to our respective lodges to rest and prepare for the D-Day.

The D-Day…Saturday, 10th October was a very long day as many events and reoccurrences kept unfolding more than what I had thought of. Setting out at 7 am, I observed preparations at some Polling Units in Ward 13, Oyinmo, before I headed straight to Oyinmo Polling Unit 005 where the Local Council Chairman normally casts his vote.

Many events (which included vote-buying, disposition of youths, impacts of poverty, and many more) unfolded right before me in about sixty (60) Polling Units I visited on election day.

I witnessed how citizens readily transact their fates at the sight of meagre cash – not minding the aftermath of the election. Definitely, politicians banked greatly on this very sorry situation of the populace. I couldn’t just imagine how someone will offer a token of ‘Two Thousand Naira’ to buy someone else’s four-year satisfaction. But, what can that poor individual do? At least, he had to eat on that day and as such forget the many days that follow.

Another key event I witnessed was the sorry state I found fellow youths. Some as agents of disruption to democracy, some as brainwashed individuals who can follow anything or anyone without pragmatism, and countless indifferent others who pay little or no attention to the development of their society.

Yet, another notable event that played out before me was the reckless conducts of some politicians. I witnessed bullying, I saw disenfranchisement. An event I can’t easily forget is the attempt by a notable politician (whose name I prefer not to say) to bribe me and buy my conscience. Thank God he ran out of cash and I tactically found my way out of his vicinity.

The nib of my pen is willing to bleed more but I have to force it to an end here, but, before I stop… I want to borrow from the wisdom of Lucius Annacus Senaca ‘the elder’ who said, “He is an ungrateful man who is unwilling to acknowledge his indebtedness to others.” Hence, I say my heartfelt gratitude to PTCIJ for the golden opportunity given to me to serve on this cause.

I must say that PTCIJ has rekindled the spirit of journalism in me and I can now proudly say that I am a resident in the fourth estate.

This story has been published on CAMPUS REPORTER with very minimal editing to preserve the original voice of the author.

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