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Observer Diary: Ondo State Election, The Ballot and the People

Following the violence that rocked the local government election, tension could be felt in the air as my team members and I arrived in Ondo town on the eve of the Ondo State 2020 governorship election.

We were all accredited electoral observers for Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ), in conjunction with YIAGA Africa Initiative. My job was simple: To report the situation of things at different wards of the Ondo West Local Government Area of the state.

My first stop was the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) office, where corps members and ad-hoc staff arrived in batches to collect electoral materials and kits. The distribution process went on smoothly, and with that, it was fair to say that INEC was prepared for the election.

On election day, my team and I departed to different wards in the local government to observe the elections.

These were the few issues my attention was drawn to:

Voters’ Turnout

A look at the total registered voters and accredited voters at different wards showed that less than 50% of the registered voters came out to vote on election day. This could be due to several predictions of violence or voters’ apathy in general.

The population of accredited voters constituted of both young and old men and women.

Breach of Covid-19 Health Protocol

Of all the 8 protective measures stated in the “INEC Policy on Conducting Election in the Context of the Covid-19 Pandemic” many of the voters failed to adhere to the rules of using nose masks and maintaining social distance.

As the election was about to begin at Ward 11, polling unit 4, the election officer briefed the voters on covid-19 protocols and emphasized that all voters must have face masks on to vote. This was probably the only polling unit that kept that in check.

In other polling units, the compliance level could be best described as “low.”

The violation of the protocols in all of the polling units could necessitate a covid-19 awareness campaign in rural areas.

Vote-Buying

Although, the exercise was devoid of voters’ intimidation and violence, but not vote-buying.  Party agents were seen inducing voters with incentives.

While the majority embraced the idea and came to polling units to vote for a candidate whose political party gave the largest share of money and food items, minority ignored the act.

Failure of Card-Readers

At Ward 3, Polling Unit 6 and Ward 11, Polling Unit 21, I was greeted by the complaints of voters who had been on the queue for more than 2 hours but were yet to cast their votes due to non-functional card readers.

While some polling units were able to solve the problem, others waited for hours before they got another card reader from the INEC office.

In some wards, the card readers were working but slowly. This discouraged many voters as they spoke rudely to INEC officers and went back home.

Conclusion

According to  Nanette L. Avery, “Talk is cheap, voting is free; take it to the polls.” We cannot continue to criticize the government if the majority refuses to show up at polling units or cast compromised votes.

From observation, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was transparent enough to make every vote count. However, “We do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate,” Thomas Jefferson.

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

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