It was my first time observing a gubernatorial election. Immediately I was posted to Njikoka Local Government Area alongside Sunday Awosoro, my mother’s words lingered heavily in my mind.
“Sa fun ewu oh, ma duro nibi ti won ti n ja. Saanu mi.” Meaning “Run away from danger oh, don’t stay in a place where there is chaos. Have mercy on me.”
It was my watchword throughout the election observation. My colleague and I, Sunday Awosoro, got to our place of deployment, Abagana in the Njikoka Local Government Area on Friday, November 6th 2021.
After we secured a place to lodge, we went in search of bike men who would take us to all the polling units, the next day.
We eventually got two bike men, Mr David and Mr Paschal.
It was the day we have been anticipating. As usual, my mother’s prayers woke me up alongside some other relatives. As early as 7 am, Sunday and I took off already from our lodge to start work for the day. There are 4 wards in Abagana, we divided it into two parts — Sunday observed two wards and I observed the other two wards.
Mr David, my bike man, who is in his fifties is quite conversant with the polling units I am to cover. Therefore, we did not have much stress locating them.
Most of the polling units I went to before 9 am were empty as there was no sign of elections. The ad hoc staff resumed late in most of the polling units, some of the electorates had to wait for the ad hoc staff.
For some hours, I did not put on my jacket and Fez cap. I was only with my tag for security purposes. Despite being with my tag only, most of these community people, especially those in Polling Unit 13, Abunagu Square, Ward 1 kept asking me after my “people”. They believed I work with the ad hoc staff since I was putting on an INEC tag(Since they did not bother to read the full content on the tag).
Fear Creeps In
Going from one polling unit to the other would have been much fun if not for the experiences I encountered on my way. At a point, I had to tell Mr David that I was becoming scared.
Every street we passed through had one or more obituaries at their entrances. Another strange thing is most of these people are not even up to 50 years old. I began to tremble because it was a strange place.
Oh! The countless shrines we passed through. I mean, who still builds shrines along the road — where people pass through every day? To me, that was very strange and wild. I had to put my earpiece on and listen to music with the volume very high.
I don’t know about others, but I’m always scared of old people. Yes, I knew I was coming to a village and I expected to see what I had never seen. But, I saw big things. “Why should a polling unit be in the midst of a very thick bush,” I wondered. Most of the voters who were at the polling unit(the ones that made us pass through the thick bush) were very old.
The looks on their faces were very scary. Just as if Mr David has seen the fear written all over my face, he told me to be patient.
“I know many people here, no harm can happen to you,” he said. I felt so relieved after I heard those words from him.
Vote-Buying and Begging For Money
In Polling Units 003 and 004, Abagana I and II, Ward 2, vote-buying was very prominent. A party member(who had removed his tag) was seen sharing #1,000 each to people to vote for an unknown party.
At a point, he went to an uncompleted building in that polling unit and a policeman, Jairus(I couldn’t check his last name) followed him immediately.
Immediately the man sharing money noticed I was trailing him, he came to me and said:
“You better dey careful. I bin don dey see say you dey watch me. No be observation INEC talk say make you con do here? If you follow me again, I go deal with you.”
Out of fear and knowing fully well that the policemen are behind whatever action he makes, I left there immediately.
When I got to polling units 011 and 012, Ndiagu Kindergarten I and II, ward 2, a party member tasked me to give her money. I tried explaining to her that I am not a voter, neither am I a party member, I told her I am just an observer.
She was adamant, she insisted I give her at least N2,000 before I leave the place. Immediately, I called on Mr David who spoke with her in the Igbo dialect and I was released to continue my journey.
Almost all the polling units I went to had me giving my contact to several men. These men, security operatives inclusive saw me with my tag, jacket, and cap — they still had the effrontery to make sexual advances towards me.
At Polling Unit, 008, Ichekuoku Square, Ward 1, one of the voters, Kelvin by name, asked me to give him my contact. I declined but he insisted I give it to him.
“I served at Ekiti State, Oye to be precise. I know so many places in Ekiti State. Just give me your contact so I can come and pay you a visit when you get back to Ekiti,” those were his words to me when I told him I’m from Ekiti State.
Throughout my journey back to Ekiti State and till now, he has been disturbing me with calls.
To run away from the policemen’s disturbance, I told each of them to give me their contacts, promising to give them calls. This technique was for them not to have my contact.
Collation of Election Results
At exactly 2:00 pm, I began to go from one polling unit to the other to get the election results. All the polling units I covered ended their elections at exactly 2:30 pm, as against the 1:30 minutes that was added to the initial 2:30 pm.
I was done with the coverage of all election results at the polling units at exactly 5:20 pm. I called Sunday to know his whereabouts so we could go to the INEC office, where the entire collation of the Njikoka local government would be done.
Sunday and I arrived at the INEC office at 6:05 pm. At that time, most of the ad hoc staff are yet to arrive at the INEC office from their respective places of deployment. Everywhere was crowded and we had no clue of what is going on.
I had only taken Yogurt since morning and I was very famished. Meanwhile, we have heard that the election will continue the following day because it was inconclusive. At that moment, I just wanted to go back to my lodge.
Not quite long, Iretomiwa, a senior colleague called me, I told her I was tired and needed to go back to my lodge. She immediately told me to go and rest. Sunday also said he was tired and we went back to our lodge together.
We did not wait for the final collection at the INEC office.
At about 10 pm that same night, Sunday went back to the collation centre and arrived at 6 am the following morning.
First-time observing election, not too bad. Learnt so many lessons, had fun and met new people!
This story has been published on Campus Reporter with very minimal editing to preserve the original voice of the author.
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