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Opinion

#OsunDecides2022: Tales Of A First-Time Observer

Observer’s Diary

 

The enthusiasm that comes with doing what you haven’t done before is another feeling entirely. Right from the training, I have had this expectant feeling of what to expect on the field as a first-time election observer.

 

On the 14th of July 2022, I set out on a journey to Osogbo from Ibadan to meet with other observers as was planned by the team on election observation from the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development. I met the big names in the Campus Reporter network, and there was a lot of getting to know one another.

 

The following day we were dispersed into our various local governments. My partner, Osaro Erto and I set out for Ila Orangun, a 40-minute drive from Osogbo. Our struggle began when got to the town, and getting hotel accommodation seemed almost impossible as all the hotels were fully booked. Not until about 30 minutes drive around with an Okada man who knew the town well were we able to get a guest house or, better said, a makeshift hotel. We had no other choice than to settle for it, so has to get down with other tasks ahead of us. 

 

After settling down, my partner and I worked on checking the wards in that local government. Later that night, we settled with our bike man, and everything was set for the next day.

 

With enthusiasm about what the day was in the store for us, as early as 7 am, we were set for the day and the bike men we had booked the previous day were around to start the day’s journey with us.

 

I remember clearly that the first ward I visited that day was Ward 5, PU 9, the INEC Ad hoc officials were already there, and they were setting up the voting centre, so I walked up to Presiding Officer 1 and asked told him that I needed to sign the register to record my presence at the polling unit as we have been earlier instructed, but the PO vehemently said: “Excuse me, there is no register for any observer to sign here.” I was taken aback at his outburst, but as it was too early in the morning and I didn’t want that to ruin my experience on election observation, thinking in my mind that the officer probably didn’t know that there was an option like that or INEC didn’t specify the option for them. 

 

My doubt was clear however, when I moved to the next Polling Unit 10 Ward 5 on the same field, Presiding Officer 1 brought out the Polling unit booklet and opened a space for me to sign.

 

In some of the other polling units I visited, there were issues on who was allowed to vote first. Some polling units allowed the elderly and pregnant women to vote first, while some vehemently rejected the idea saying that it should be based on a first-come-first-serve basis as against the rule of INEC.

 

Observing in Ward 5 Unit 5, I had greeted the officials and duty and proceeded to see what was on the ground, and then I sighted a man who had just finished voting, and in an attempt to drop the ballot paper in the box, he titled his paper to show a man outside the voting box then the man nodded affirming that he had truly voted his party. Other party agents sighting that also raised the alarm about why the Presiding officers allowed them to be showing people their ballot papers. It was then I discovered that the persons involved were from the People’s Democratic Party ( PDP), so I took a further step of following the suspected two, and I told my bike man to wait for me that I was coming back but what I noticed what that they immediately entered into a hideous corner and I figured that following them into that corner can posit danger and the words of Aunty Busola kept ringing in my ears that “No story (picture/video) is worth your life.” I then retraced my steps and went back to the field, forfeiting that chance of getting a video or picture of vote buying.

 

In other polling units that I visited, there was no clear evidence of vote buying as it seems like all the party agents have been warned of the danger of getting caught in the act.

 

My partner, Osaro Erto, and I had thought that the collation centre was an INEC office, so we had gone to our hotel rooms to charge our gadgets as they were already low. Not until we got to the INEC office did we discover that the collation centre was in another part of town, and we had to take a bike to the venue. We got to the collation centre after about five wards had presented their results, but we were able to get them after the final collation as the collation officer was magnanimous enough to show us her spreadsheet.

 

The day ended with a high spirit that I had just monitored an election in real-time, and it was void of election violence.

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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