My experience as an election observer at the Edo governorship election in Sept 2020 was outstanding. I was posted to Orhionmwon local government. This area includes 12 wards, 203 polling booths with its headquarters situated at Abudu town, Edo State. As the team lead, I had already put in efforts to know the local government area in order to make the work easier for myself and the entire team.
The pre-election day observation was done immediately we got to our local government from various destinations. Getting to the (Orhionmwon) local government, we were delayed outside of the gate with other Ad-hoc staff that came to check their names on the list. After some minutes, we later gained access to the local government premises where we performed our duty. After the whole process later in the night, a reportage was done on the pre-election activities.
On the election day proper, I left the hotel with my teammates at around 6:30 in the morning. I got to my first ward at 8:04 am (ward 6) after I spent an hour 3mins on the road. I observed this ward for a while then moved to ward 5, where a party bigwig, Pst. Osagie Oze-Iyamu (APC governorship candidate) came around to cast his vote. I observed ward 5, unit 11 and 12 peacefully but there was violence. At unit 13, a party agent was seen directing people to cast their vote, this was later stopped by an INEC official and led to some minutes of argument. While on this, I received information that APC party agent brought some thugs to the voting point and chased PDP voters away at ward 5, unit 14. I decided to go there to fact check the information given. Unfortunately, by 10:36 am while on my way to the mentioned unit (14), I met some electorates on their way with fear on their faces. From my observation, I discovered that the violence had gotten to another stage than expected, this filled my bike man’s heart with fear. Also, from the information gathered, most of the PDP agents were not present at unit 14 when the incident happened but were available at unit 11, 12 and 13 because these units are crowdy and had the same location – Ugboko – Niro pry/school.
However, my decision to move to my targeted unit (26) to cover the election process where the APC candidate voted came late as I met him on his way out of the voting point after he had cast his vote at 11:10 am. At this unit, the election was free and fair. The security personnel were on duty without the exception of different media representatives. The likes of TVC, Arise, among others. Also, there were two domestic observers from YIAGA too. Immediately after this ward, I went further to other wards and units to perform my duty.
Major Problems Encountered During The Exercise
The first problem I encountered was the long distance between the units and wards. The distance was long to the extent that it took me another journey of about 30 – 40mins. It was as a result of this that I missed my target at ward 5, unit 26 where Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu (APC governorship candidate) cast his vote. Another problem is the bad state of the road. The road was wet and mouldy due to the downpour on the election eve. This made the road difficult to pass, especially with a bike. Also, I had an issue with intra-state transport fare and nourishments as they were too costly due to the hike in the price of fuel. As the rain persisted, I paid off my bike man after he dropped me at the collation centre.
After a hectic day at the collation centre, I was denied entry after spending six hours waiting for them to start the collation process. All efforts to gain access proved abortive as the security personnel insisted my work as an observer had ended at the wards collation centre and not local government collation centre. Also, he said: “I had three observers in there already and which I cannot allow more than that.”
Additionally, at the collation centre, a man from PDP alleged the APC of masterminding the election at Oronigbe ward 5, unit 14. According to him, he said, himself and others chased PDP members from the voting points. One of the APC members who allegedly masterminded the scheme was arrested by the security men. This incident corresponds to the former that happened when the election was ongoing.
In conclusion, I really appreciate Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ) for giving me the golden opportunity to participate in the Edo Governorship election as an observer. The course was full of great memories and experience. Also, I suggest that PTCIJ should look into the problem most of us encountered and proffer solution to it for a future goal.
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