As Travis Rice once said, “We’ll never know our full potential unless we push ourselves to find it.” And indeed the push needed to unlock a new set of potentials in me presented itself through the Ondo 2020 governorship elections. Before delving further, my profound gratitude goes to Premium Times Center for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ) for the opportunity to have had function as one of her election observers.
The journey of experience kick-started on the election eve accompanied by my fellow teammates to Akoko North West local government of the state. After the two hours wearisome journey from the state capital influenced by deplorable roads, we arrived into the town of Oke-Agbe. On our arrival, the search for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Collation Centre began. A mild confusion arose from having to decide where exactly the collation centre was situated but this was later on resolved at the INEC local government office after speaking with the electoral officer.
Our Accommodation followed and was settled before we returned into the town for pre-election observations. Security officials in large numbers roamed the streets and residents also wary of bustling activities. Before 7 pm, the distribution of electoral materials had finished. Negotiations for our transportation was settled and we retired for the big day ahead.
I envisaged the morning as an anxiety-ridden one but unknown confidence emerged from within. A little after past 7 am, I set off on a motorcycle from Oke-Agbe to Odo Irun. After some twenty minutes, I arrived at my first polling unit (Odo-Otin Oyinbo PU: 002) for the day.
An hour before the commencement of the elections, voters were seen checking their names on the list and some already on the queue. Compliance with COVID-19 protocols was however minimal across the wards. The presiding officers could do less in educating the crowds on the dangers of the coronavirus disease.
Vote buying was a norm that cut across the various polling units in the wards. Party agents enforced who the voters voted for. At a polling unit, I witnessed a party agent help a voter cast her vote and then followed her to drop it in the ballot box in the presence of the presiding officer.
The deplorable and inaccessible roads by car to Oyinmo/Ayegunle, Ugboji Odo Irun PU: 28/02/08/11 can’t be left unsaid. On the way, a part of the road was split and a car had fallen into it. Security officials deployed to the unit reportedly claim to have been slammed down twice by their motorcycle. I attest to this as I had to come down at several intervals for my rider to move only with the motorcycle while I trekked.
Votes counting started earlier than the stipulated time. By 4 pm, most of the results were posted and the electoral officials left for their respective wards. Total collation of results for the local government started early in the night at Oke-Agbe and the results were announced by 9:45 pm.
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