Without mincing words, I can tell that most improvements we have experienced in the three last elections conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) were from the observations and reports of civil society organisations, media organizations, and domestic and foreign observers.
With the infant democracy of Nigeria, election observation cannot be underestimated. Election observation is very important in a democratic society like Nigeria, where we experience elections every four years. With the need for consistent improvement, election observation is crucial during elections, and it is an integral part of the electoral process. With election observation, the government and the citizens can define the freeness, fairness and credibility of an election in the country.
The fact remains that Nigerians go to the polls every four years to elect their leaders. At some point, many Nigerians have lost interest in elections as a result of the violence and other discrepancies associated with elections in the time past. However, with election observation — and the recent #EndSARS protest — Nigerians, more than ever, are more interested in elections.
As the democracy that was birthed in 1999 continues to grow, election observation has a role to play in a truly democratic society as it promotes good governance and also increases the confidence in the citizens of a truly democratic society.
In the spirit of strengthening democracy, I joined other promoters of democracy and auspicious observers under the aegis of the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID) to observe the 2022 Osun State governorship election.
I was welcomed to Osogbo, Osun state, with banners and posters with images of the flag bearers of the two major political parties candidates — the incumbent governor, Gboyega Oyetola of the All Progressive Congress (APC) and the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Ademola Adeleke.
Osun’s election observation showed me that life is not always rosy, even for a Roseline. I had my own fair share of the common phrase ‘life in the trenches.’ My journey from Ibadan to Osogbo was a bumpy ride, all thanks to the unfriendly traffic on the road.
According to my training, part of my responsibility as an electoral observer includes pre-election observation. The pre-election observation tracks the readiness of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in deploying electoral materials to various Registration Area Centres (RACs) and Polling Units as well as the deployment of security personnel.
After a long ride from Osogbo, team Boluwaduro Local Government Area — consisting of Oluwatosin Ologun and Adebayo Miracle Oluwatomiwa — arrived at the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) office located at Otan Ayegbaju.
Before we arrived at the INEC office, sensitive and insensitive electoral materials had already been sorted and some had been distributed to the Registration Area Centres (RACs) in the LGA.
Corps members followed the materials to the RACs, with the intention to sleep on mats provided by INEC.
The Market Of Vote Buying And Selling Is Still Active
The Independent National Electoral Commission and other concerned bodies must find a way to curb vote buying and selling during elections. One ill act during an election that directly or indirectly affirms that votes count is vote trading.
The level of poverty has prompted many citizens to trade their votes for a certain amount of money. Some analysts opine that voters would vote even if there are no political parties to pay for the vote. Few people still feel some electorates are motivated by money to exercise their rights as citizens.
I observed that at most polling units, voters are expected to show the political party agents that they had truly voted for the party before they are directed to a corner where they would be given a ticket to tender at the collection centre.
It is expedient that we face the reality that the few thousand Naira got from selling votes cannot feed a large family, not to talk less of solving the problems we crave solutions to.
INEC’s Improvement And The Big Challenge Ahead
It is pertinent that we commend the Independent National Electoral Commission for the improvement in the just concluded Osun State governorship election.
In its new policy, INEC mandated priority voting for elderly people, people living with disabilities, nursing and breastfeeding mothers, pregnant women and others at polling units.
At most polling units in the Boluwaduro local government area of the state, the electoral officials took it as a point of duty to ensure priority voting.
Moving Forward To The 2023 General Elections
To a very large extent, INEC has improved in its way of conducting elections in Nigeria, which is a good one for INEC. However, we are not there yet, as we have a long way to go.
Ahead of the 2023 general elections, INEC should review and implement some other policies that can improve the credibility of elections in the country. INEC should consider how electronic devices can work better in rural areas across the 774 local governments in the country.
To ensure a free, fair and credible election next year, the citizens, especially the youths, should desist from electoral violence. And no matter the level of poverty in the land, we must understand that selling our votes for a penny cannot solve our problems.
With the few months left, every Nigerian that is yet to collect his or her Permanent Voters Card (PVC) should endeavour to obtain it at the INEC office closest to you. Your PVC is your power!
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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