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Vote Or PVC Trade: The Highest Bidder’s Choice

Patriotism, they say, is the foundation for democratic governance but we have seen that the reality is a fantasy of imagination.

The October 10 Ondo gubernatorial election holds a track record in my head that will always make my spine shiver. As an INEC domestic election observer under YIAGA Africa Initiative, I was deployed to Ese-Odo Local Government Area of the state.

At the eve of the election, I arrived Igbekebo the local government headquarters after some hours journey from Akure the state capital. I began the assignment with a pre-election observation exercise, mapping out the INEC office, collation centres and opinions from the residents about election situation in the local government.

Election materials were deployed to various RACs as early as 3-4 pm. Police officers at the INEC office in the local government denied both observers, media and other ad-hoc staff who were yet to be posted access to the premises.

Interestingly enough, the feedback from the residents suggested that the area despite being the local government headquarters have been through tough times, faced with negligence by past governments and were ready to make a change with their vote. Some issues were peculiar to the area — no electricity for about 12 years, records of election violence, invasion and the hijacking of ballot boxes by hoodlums according to the residents.

What seems to be a form of optimism and hope to make a change turned tables on election day. Despite the negligence by past and present administration, a lot of electoral misconducts marred the election process as well as the choices of the voters. Voters were entirely different, acting contrary to what they had voiced out on the eve of the election.

Even with the reality of Covid-19 pandemic, voters came out in mass to exercise their fundamental rights. However, the majority of voters despite the efforts of the presiding officers to ensure compliance with the Covid 19 guidelines, did not adhere to the guidelines.

In some polling units, presiding officers educated voters on INEC directives and need to prevent election violence, security officers further charged party agents and supporters to stay peaceful and allow for free and fair election. PWD  and other vulnerable people were considered first according to INEC directives.

The fate of the voters soon turned out to be for the highest bidder’s choice as polling units in Apoi, Igbekebo, Ojuala, Nanagha, Kiribo, Igbotu and other areas across the local government area were in jeopardy as a result of a high incidence of vote-buying and other election misconducts —under-aged voting, election interference, police officers being compromised, party agents distributing Galla sausage roll and other edibles to influence voter’s choices, intimidation, harassment of observers and other irregularities, voters at brawl over voting assistance.

Nevertheless, the area experienced a low form of election violence except for the riverine areas which the residents referred to as “hot spot.” Although a number of security officers were deployed from different parts of the country to safeguard the whole election process, a lot of them complained about their welfare especially accommodations as some made their vehicles their lodge.

A total of 17 candidates took part in the election. Candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, won with 29,2830 votes, defeating the candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, Eyitayo Jegede who came second with 195,791 votes and the incumbent deputy governor who doubled as a candidate of the Zenith Labour Party, ZLP, Agboola Ajayi, who came third with 69,127 votes. Akeredolu will return to serve a second straight term as Governor of the Sunshine State.

This story has been published on CAMPUS REPORTER with very minimal editing to preserve the original voice of the author.

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