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Opinion

#OsunDecides2022: Osun State Election

Observer Diary

The journey from Ado-Ekiti to Oshogbo, the Osun state capital, was a stress-free one. I left home at 8 am On Thursday, 14th July 2022, for the park. The three hours journey to Oshogbo for election observation stretched for as long as they could; we all know how unpredictable road trips can be. I was trying to meet up with the time frame provided to us by the team leader, but it became impossible when the bus developed a fault in the middle of nowhere. I eventually got to Oshogbo around past two, thinking I already beat the time, only for the bike man to carry me to the annexe of the hotel after claiming to know my destination. I didn’t even realise until I got to the reception and he had already left by then. I had to start another journey to the central hotel, which was all the way across town. I eventually got to the central hotel a few minutes past three. Like a typical Nigerian business, the supposed five-star hotel already sold some of our rooms that were paid for weeks ago to other clients; unfortunately, my room was one of them. I had to stay in a friend’s room till the team leader arrived to sort out the whole issue.

 

The following day which was Friday 15th of July 2022, we started the day with a lecture on election observation by Mr Ajibola Hamzat. He lectured us on everything we needed to know about election observation, from election monitoring to coverage to security. It was well-detailed and informative. After the lecture, we were divided into groups of two to the thirty local governments in Osun state. I was posted to Ilesa East local government of Osun State with Phillip Anjorin as my partner. We had breakfast and went to the INEC office in Oshogbo to collect our tags and everything needed for the observation.

 

I was excited and nervous about the task ahead. Having observed the Ekiti State gubernatorial election over a month ago, which happened to be thrilling and fun, I was looking forward to the Osun State Governorship election with mixed feelings.

 

When we left the INEC office, we all departed to our various local governments. When my partner and I got to Ilesa East, we got a place to sleep for two nights then looked for the bike man we would be using for Election Day. We got two bike men and bargained price with them. Ilesa East has eleven wards, we divided it into two with the help of our bike man, who told us the wards are on the same axis. We realised that ward 1-6 was on the same axis and 7-11 was on another axis. I went with the first six wards while my partner went with the remaining 5. The first six words are Okesa, Imo, Ifosan/Oke-Eso, Itisan/Ogudu, Ijamo and Upper & Lower Ijoka. After settling with the bike men, we asked them to take us to the Ilesa East INEC office for pre-election observation. When we got there, the distribution of election materials was in full swing, ad-hoc staff were checking the list to know the polling unit they would be working on Election Day. The distribution process into the various buses going to individual wards was really fast and organized. By the time The National Commissioner in charge of operations, Dr Baba Bila visited the Ilesa East INEC Office at 6:16 to check the situation of things; they were already through with the distribution. We left the INEC office for our villa to get enough rest for the work ahead the following day. 

On Election Day, my bike man came to pick me up by 7:00, our first stop was Ilesa Grammar School which was the Registration Area Centre for  Okesa Ward 1; they distributed all election materials to the 9 polling units in the ward. There were two polling units in Ilesa Grammar School, so I waited till they started the election process. Even though they had already addressed the voters and showed them the empty ballot boxes since 8:00, both polling units didn’t start the election till 8:40.

 

I left there and started moving from ward to ward and polling unit to polling unit for elections. 

 

TIME ELECTION STARTED

 

I observed that the election started between 8:30-9:00 in every polling unit, which can be considered early.

 

PRIORITY VOTING 

 

According to INEC regulations and guidelines for the conduct of election 2022 part II 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.” This rule was duly observed in every polling unit I visited. Everyone that falls in this category was prioritized and attended to without delay.

 

THE BIMODAL VOTING & ACCREDITATION SYSTEM (BVAS)

 

The BVAS worked perfectly in every polling unit I visited, and according to the ad-hoc staff, they said it made their work easier and faster. The process was visible fast because, in the morning, the queues were really long; by a few minutes past one, almost every queue had reduced drastically, and the adhoc staff were just sitters waiting for new voters with people who had already cast their votes lurking around for vote counting once it’s 2:30.

 

COVID-19

 

COVID-19 is still very much around, no matter how much we decide not to pay attention to it. For a gathering like an election where it is always crowded, COVID-19 precautions should be strictly adhered to. INEC made provision for it in its rules and guidelines, but the polling officers didn’t adhere to it. Of all the polling units  I visited, only a few polling officers adhered to some of the rules, they used face masks, but there was no social distancing. Every other polling unit officer and security official couldn’t care less; how would they talk to voters about COVID if they are not even using face masks not to talk of sanitisers.

 

VOTE-BUYING

 

Vote buying has become a norm in every Nigerian election, voters come out to vote with the intention of going back home with money, and everyone is willing to sell their vote. All the majority political parties like APC and PDP bought votes, and voters went to the highest bidder. I really don’t know if I should blame aspirants for buying votes unashamedly or the voters for selling their voters for a meagre sum of ten thousand Naira and below without thinking beyond the money they can’t spend for the 4 years period the winner will spend in the office. It’s really sad. Party agents will move close to the cubicle, and the vote sellers will stylishly show them the party they voted for so that their names can be written down for later payment after receiving tags as evidence that they indeed voted for the party. The secret ballot isn’t so secret anymore.

 

SECURITY/VIOLENCE

 

In preparation for the election, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps deployed 11,226 personnel to Osun State. The Nigeria Police Force also deployed 21,000 personnel to Osun state as well. However, this election was almost violence-free. If not for disagreement between party agents in a few polling units, it would have been a case of zero violence. The election went on as smooth as possible. In compliance with INEC’s directives, all the officers in the polling units were unarmed. The armed ones kept an armful distance from the polling units. 

 

COLLATION OF RESULTS

 

The collation of results in the Ilesa East local government area started at 7:00 inside Ilesa Grammar School, and it was displayed electronically. The collation process ended with Governor Gboyega Oyetola of APC leading the polls with 13,452 votes, thereby winning the Ilesa East local government area of Osun state. 

 

The electoral act of 2022 really made things better and faster. We can also say it keeps getting better, Ekiti election was good, but the Osun election was better. We can only hope that the 2023 general election will be the best. We are beginning to experience a violence-free election. I really hope it continues like this. I also want to use this medium to appreciate everyone at CJID for the opportunity to serve. I’d never take it for granted. Thank you so much, CJID.

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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