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Observer Diary: Akoko North-west In The Ondo Governorship Election

The build-up to the election day in Ondo state was something like the preparation for a major war by two powerful sides- some people preferred to call it three-; one side which had recently won, and the other which had recently lost. So, it was more like a tussle- something like a determining war for both sides: for one side to affirm a strong political renaissance, which some people believe started in Edo state; and for the other to tell the world it is still very much in the game of domination. 

Although there had been records of politically-motivated attacks here and there in some highlighted violence hotspots in Ondo state prior the election day, Akoko Northwest had enjoyed a rather peaceful atmosphere, not just before but also during the election day. On my entry to the LGA seat in Okeagbe, around whose outskirts is located the LGA INEC office which doubled as the LGA collation centre, election readiness was palpable. While the INEC office witnessed a throng of officials, ad-hoc staff, and security operatives that were being dispatched to their respective registration areas with appropriate election materials, the townsmen and townswomen seemed to gather in small groups, often discussing individual predictions of the next day election.

On The Election Day

Akoko North-West LGA is home to ten wards, and each ward has at least ten polling units.  On the election day, the stage was set quite early, as early as 7 am – 8 am, in the LGA for the voting process, and different polling unit officials arrived at centres in utmost readiness. Although the weather threatened with rain in the early hours of the election kick-off, the resilience and cooperation on the part of the INEC officials with the electorates saved the day from embarrassment. One particular event that stood out was the cooperation of these two sides to move away from an open space when the rain started to another open place which was secured from the rain, to save the ballot papers and other important materials while the voting went on.  

As a trained election observer from YIAGA Africa and from my candid opinion inspired by the sights I saw on the field, it is not out of place for me to say that the competence level of the nation’s electoral body has greatly improved, and this, to a good extent, has encouraged the spirit of sportsmanship amidst contesting parties after the declaration of election results.  

Although the voting process made provision to accommodate as many voters as possible, the election was greeted with low voter’s turn out. While the reason for this may not be accurately known, it is not totally out of place to speculate that the violent aggressions recorded prior the election instilled some fear in the people and some just decided to stay safe in their homes. Commendable, however, is that the electorates that exercised their franchise did it peacefully, although amidst poor compliance with the COVID-19 public health protocols.

On Vote Trading

Like every other place in Ondo North senatorial district, the record of vote-trading in Akoko northwest was massive. Agents of the two major parties were seen at closed and open corners offering money to voters. In grim faces, these party agents offered from N2,000-N5,000 to voters, who received the money with grinned teeth, and they were closely monitored to ensure the votes were cast according to the negotiation. In Arigidi/Iye I of ward 1, this situation led to an aggressive verbal fall-out between loyalists of the APC and the PDP, following the issue that one party was always trying to use their money to lure the other party’s people to voting wrongly. To a large extent, this heavy influencing of the voter’s natural choice is toxic to true democracy. While INEC has improved a great deal, the problem now is with our parties and the electorates.

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

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