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Opinion

#OsunDecides2022: A Certified Loner And A First-Time Observer

 

Observer’s Diary

 

I have always been involved in elections since the 2016 general election from the four walls of my father’s sitting room, watching TV to keep track of events that surrounded the election. So, when the opportunity to observe the Osun Gubernatorial election came to my doorstep, I hopped on it happily.

 

On the 14th of July 2022, I set out to Oshogbo as early as 6 am in order not to get to Oshogbo late, looking at the traffic that I will probably face at Ibadan. I got to Oshogbo at exactly 12:30 pm, roughly 6 hours after leaving Lagos. I arrived at Halatria Hotel and checked into my room. Later that evening, we had a team briefing to explain to us what we would be doing the next day and also talk about some events that happened in Ekiti and how to prevent them from reoccurring.

 

I spent the night with an amazing sports journalist Oluwaferanmi Omoniyi. We watched the super falcons match and analyzed it together with the company of the wonderful Wahab Olalekan. Star Boy Jerry had a wonderful experience in Ekiti which we joked about all the time.

 

On election eve, we set out to the INEC office to get our Observers’ Kits. I was deployed to Irepodun Local Government Area alone. Irepodun Local Government Area is the home to the Labour Party candidate Lasun Yusuf. The fact that I was deployed alone to Irepodun was quite challenging for me as it was my first time observing any election. I quickly came up with the phrase Certified Loner for all of us that didn’t have a partner. I took out time to engage some of my colleagues who have experienced the process before. I wasn’t shy to seek advice from Wahab Olalekan, who was also in a Local Government area of a high profile in the Ekiti election.

 

 My Local government area was not far from Tolulope Ilesanmi’s Local Government, so we paired ourselves, and bonding was not that hard as we have been gist buddies since our arrival on Thursday. We returned to the hotel, and Tolu and I set out for our journey to our Local Government of deployment.

 

I got to INEC office Irepodun at 03:29 PM; election material has been distributed to all the 11 wards in the LGA but not transported yet to their RACs because the security Operative was demanding payment before they moved. In no time, that was settled, and the buses moved to their various RACs. After they moved out, I went to get accommodation. I got to a place not too far from the INEC office with the name Blessing Guest Hotel, the receptionist lacked customer service skills. I went on a tour around the Local Government area to mark out places I would need to visit with Mr Olawale, my motorcyclist. I later retired to the hotel to have a good night’s rest.

 

On Election Day, I woke up as early as 3:00 am and called my motorcyclist to remind him that he had to get to the hotel as early as possible. We set out around 6:45 am, and to my surprise, there was no police checkpoint of any sort, and there was no restriction of movement as stated in the news that morning.

 

I started the day at the polling unit 004, ward 005, the polling unit of Labour Party Candidate Lasun Yusuf. Voting started here around 8:51 am. Here are a few things I observed in Irepodun:

 

BVAS

 

The BVAS had difficulty recognizing the fingerprint of the voters. Most of the polling units I observed used facial recognition. They said that it works better and faster than fingerprints. Furthermore, the BVAS in some polling units found it very hard to recognise the elderly. Most of them had to try several times before they could be accredited, especially in Ward 06, unit 08, where I met a lot of elderly people who had tried to get accredited to couldn’t because the BVAS did not recognise both faces and fingerprints.

 

Priority Voting

 

According to INEC regulations and guidelines for the conduct of election 2022 part, I section 25, “people with disabilities, visibly pregnant women, nursing or breastfeeding mothers and the elderly shall be granted priority access to voting at the polling unit. All of the polling units ensured that elderly persons, pregnant women, nursing mothers, and also persons with disabilities were given adequate priority to vote. In Ward 08, Unit 10, the security personnel ensured that there were separate queues for different priority voters.

 

Vote Buying

 

In all of the polling units I went to, I saw Vote Trading in different forms and patterns. In most polling units, the list of voters who voted for parties was collated by a party member on the instruction of the party agent, and voters’ reward was distributed after the announcement of results in such polling units. Some voters were directed to a particular place to collect their reward. In a few, the party agents give those who voted for his party a tag for easy recognition of voters who are to receive money. In Ward 05, Unit 004, the supposed woman leader has people referred to her as the one who led voters on the order of the party agents to where the voters would collect their reward.

 

Participation of Youths

 

I had a personal interest in youth, so I went into this exercise to check for the participation of the youth in the electoral. It was so sad that at the end of the process, the youth that came to vote wasn’t up to half of the elderly people who came out to vote. It was also the elderly ones that were more concerned with the election. In Ward 05, Unit 04, as early as possible, the elderly were already out even before I got there. They did not only vote but also waited, even in the rain, for their vote to be counted. The two groups that came out to vote were the elderly and also the women in Irepodun LGA.

 

Security

 

It is very important to praise the conduct of the security personnel who were on election duty at Irepodun LGA. They all conducted themselves in a very good manner. They didn’t harass any voter, observer, or journalist. I was very impressed when I got to Ward 08, Polling Unit 10, the police officers there were in charge of the queue, and they ensured orderliness.

 

Collation of Results at the LGA

 

Collation started at about 7:29 PM in a dilapidated building not far from the INEC Office after results from 7 of 11 RACs had arrived. The remaining four RACs which had not arrived were because of inadequate means of transportation to the LGA Collation Centre. At about 11:03 PM, the Returning Officer of the LGA announced the final collated results. The Returning Officer immediately left Irepodun for the state collation centre at INEC headquarters in Osogbo in a convoy of police vans. My bikeman, at this point, was nowhere to be found, and I had to beg an INEC official for a lift to my hotel. He dropped me 5 minutes away from my hotel, and I got to the hotel around 11:53 PM.

 

Looking Forward

 

Looking at the forthcoming elections, INEC should try their best to decongest Polling Units where there are a lot of voters. Also, they should try to improve on the BVAS machine, which had issues with recognizing people’s fingerprints but found it easy to recognize people’s faces. Although it was not the same for the elderly, some of the elderly had to try more than once before they could get accredited.

 

In terms of the security personnel posted to Irepodun LGA, they had a very big issue with communicating their thoughts to the citizens of Irepodun, who majorly speak Yoruba. In all of the polling units, the Police officers found it difficult to articulate their thoughts to the voters, which at a point made the police officers just sit and observe from a distance.

 

Many thanks to CJID for the privilege of supporting a free and fair election. Also, to all of my colleagues who made the Osun election a wonderful experience for me. Most importantly, cheers to all of the certified loners.

DISCLAIMER: This story has been published on Campus Reporter with very minimal editing to preserve the original voice of the author.

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