“You no see wetin dey happen for here? No be democracy we dey practice for this country,” said a security agent who I had just exchanged pleasantries with at Ikaladerhan Primary School in Okada.
Although there is a lot to be thankful for in the just concluded Edo gubernatorial election, it was far from the chocolate fudge many may think it to be.
For instance, a woman had mentioned a cash reward to her friend in a crowd that gathered around a prominent politician at Ikaladerhan Primary School and when I moved to confirm from locals an hour later, one woman informed me that she was still waiting to collect the money promised to her before voting.
When I pressed her for the political party, she said: “Na dem PDP na.”
It was obvious that a fast one had been played on her. And she couldn’t have been the only victim of such. In fact, it is easy for me to assert that a good number of votes cast in the election was from hoodwinked locals — Locals who are easy prey in this sort of election.
Okada Grammar School wasn’t any different. Not long after the results were counted, an APC agent began to share money to persons who had gathered close to my transport. When I moved closer under the guise of making a call, I heard him telling off another because he had seen him chanting along with PDP supporters.
And there was the police incident at Okada junction along Sagamu-Benin expressway. I had to cover two other wards—Okada East and Ofunmwegbe—along the expressway. After an officer stopped the car I had hired to check its boot, we were told to park our car by the police officer-in-charge.
He leaned closer to the vehicle; I explained to him that I was an accredited INEC election observer and showed him my card. To my surprise, he said that I won’t be allowed past the checkpoint. This was especially surprising because I had spent less than ten seconds at every checkpoint until that one.
We had the five minutes back-and-forth and he eventually agreed to let us through as long as we didn’t return to Okada. For a fact, that is not a reaction expected of any police officer towards an election observer.
I parked by the petrol station opposite Okada, called my superiors at the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism, PTCIJ, and was advised to return to Okada. I dropped out of the car to explain this new development to the officer-in-charge. The conversation that followed was as disgusting as it gets.
He asked where I got the car from and I replied, “I hired it.” He asked, “how much?” I replied, “15,000.” That figure must have excited him. He asked me for his share and I smiled. He asked an officer to go collect the share(bribe) from my driver. As I moved away to appraise my superiors of this new development, I heard him call me “rich boy.”
I’m still unsure of the exact conversation that occurred between my driver and the officer asked to go collect the bribe. But when I got to the car, he said we could return to Okada. Excited, I hopped into the car and as we drove past the officer-in-charge, he asked, “you don see am?” I had to lie and said “yes” knowing that we would be stopped if I said no.
When I asked my driver if he gave out any money, he said “no.”
Institutions like the police have a very important role to play in elections. Their job is to ensure a free and fair election and to enforce laid down protocols. However, on Saturday, some police officers were just as disinterested as the sundry registered voters who stayed back at home.
At Egbeta primary School, amid the toxic queues and lack of respect for COVID-19 protocols, some police officers chose to sit back and press their phones instead. It took the DPO police, Okada, who had driven in unannounced to correct this and keep the officers on their toes.
Personally, I do feel that the Edo gubernatorial election is a step in the right direction. Still, it filled me with a bundle of nerves. We will do better to improve our democracy if we talk down vote-selling in the same manner that we do with vote-buying and discourage these unethical acts within the police force.
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