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Opinion

#OsunDecides2022: Observer, Your Road May Be Rough

Observer’s Diary

On Thursday, 14th July 2022, the claws of anxiety were already shredding my confidence. It was a moment of uncertainty and there was no hope that my usual self would return. Regardless, I set out for the hotel where we would converge before heading to our locations of deployment prior to the election day.

Within that hour, I opted to surf the internet to keep my brain busy. Like a wanting lad who cannot resist the curvy figure of a damsel, my eyes sighted the day’s quote, “Nothing comes on a silver platter”, and I knew in a twinkle that I had found a breakthrough, and my confidence returned in parts.

To avoid overstretching, they deployed me to the Isokan Local Government. As a first-time election observer, I knew it was going to be a long walk to freedom, and, like Nelson Mandela, I was ready to crush challenges. Meanwhile, my confidence was still returning in parts.

When Planning Goes Wrong

When I got to my location of deployment, I took a bike to locate the INEC office in that jurisdiction with another aim to confirm whether materials were already being distributed. When I got there, some buses conveying the materials and the officials had already left for their respective units, while others were lamenting and couldn’t wait to leave because of the bad network at the INEC office. No calls were going through and no chance to use the internet.

Following the advice of some of my experienced colleagues about getting a bike man to work with me on Election Day, I had an agreement with the bike man that took me to the INEC office and he promised to show up. Well, my father would always say that anytime you want to plan, ensure you have sub plans. Thank God I took note and made use of it; otherwise, I would have regretted it.

In search of a hotel to rest my head to prepare for the election day, I took another bike man and tried roughly five hotels but settled for the one close to the INEC office even though I paid twice what the other hotels charge; it is a decision I would have regretted had I not opted for it. As my sub plan, I had an agreement with the second bike man and I was sure that one of them would be around.

At about 9 pm in my hotel room, while I was trying to familiarize myself with the units and wards, the first bike man called me and said he would not be around again. I was a little disturbed but didn’t lose hope. On the election day, I called the second bike man, and he didn’t pick up. That was when I knew that even my Plan B had failed and I must find a way out if I wanted to fulfil my assignment diligently.

I tried three bike men but later got one on my fourth attempt. I settled for Abiodun, a calm, young family man who knows everywhere and is known by everyone in Isokan Local Government, but not from either of the towns under the local government.

Vote Buying: She Voted For A Party But Was Not Paid

Vote buying has become part of our election and from what I observed in some units, it stays if a proper measure is not taken. When I got to this unit amidst voting, Qoyyum, a young man, was quick to notice that I was an observer. He knew my functions and was ready to engage. Through him, I got acquainted with the reality that there was vote buying even though it’s not done openly. He opened up to me that a party paid between five thousand to ten thousand depending on how sharp you are. While another party paid between two thousand to three thousand. Although he had not voted at that moment, he believed that vote-buying was wrong.

When I was done speaking with Qoyyum, I heard an old woman lamenting that she had voted for a party but was not paid as promised. She was already furious and wouldn’t engage anyone except the representative of the party who promised her money.

Subsequently, in some units, I learnt that many electorates that have voted already had their names documented and got paid after exercising their right.

Knowing when to Abscond

As an observer, I have learnt that every part of my body must be sensitive to the environment and situations. When I got to this polling unit, there was a calm situation until seconds after then everything went awry. A man, after voting in his unit, came to disrupt the voting activities of another polling unit. The atmosphere was getting tensed, and I was stylishly recording until I saw one of his followers in haste to mount on his bike, vowing to return soon. At that point, I knew that the matter would get escalated should he return.

I left the location immediately to avoid being dragged into a crisis that could lead to violence. On my way to another Polling unit just two minutes after, two buses with security operatives were already heading to the unit to calm the situation.

Effective Communication

Communication is a very integral part of human relationships. When the receiver cannot decode the message of the sender, communication becomes ineffective. Being that Isokan Local government is a Yoruba-speaking dominated community, in all the units I observed, the INEC officials communicated with the voters largely in Yoruba but not without sprinkles of familiar English lexicon. This is a commendable feat, sincerely.

However, many of the security personnel only communicate in English. While many would say that there is nothing wrong with that, one cannot but emphasize that should there be issues that are beyond the function of the INEC official and the security personnel need to wade in, there is likely to be communication problem which can further lead to avoidable challenges.

Thus, the concerned must have plans to have at least a security personnel that speaks the language of such a community to foster better relationships and bridge the communication gap.

Lastly, unlike reports from some of my colleagues from other local governments, at every point I needed to engage with either INEC officials or security operatives, I was given an audience adequately. No harassment, no brutality.

When I got to the INEC office for the collation of the result at the local government, multiple times, the collation officer urged others to be plain with what they do. He kept repeating that there are observers around and they must do well everything.

At about 11:00 pm, the Local government’s result was announced, and I was done for the day. As my hotel is near to the INEC office, I could get a quick lift to the place. Even though it took almost 30 minutes of knocking before the hotel’s security man could open the gate.

On the following day after they announced the general result, even though PDP didn’t win at the local government, I observed that the jubilation was massive and any sighted banner of APC was destroyed.

Overall, it was an eye-opening experience.

 

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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