It was 8:14 am, my colleague and I had just stepped out from the hotel we lodged in at Nteje, Anambra state. It was Election Day. After waiting for our transport guy, the bearded young man eventually showed up with his tricycle, miracle was expected to pick us up at the hotel an hour before, as agreed the previous night.
I left Ogun State to Awka, the capital of Anambra State on the 2nd of November. I spent more than 11hrs on the road journeying through 4 states. I was happy to meet with other campus journalists as we were all lodged at Wintess Hotel, one of the biggest hotels in the state capital, courtesy of the Premium Times Centre for investigative journalism (PTCIJ).
PTCIJ selected a few campus journalists from across the federation to observe the Anambra election. Our duty as observers was to monitor the election. We went through rigorous training for 3 days, to prepare us ahead for the task we were all assigned and also because of the nature of the election, insecurity most importantly. It was an insightful moment with Aunty B, Mr Igboho, Mr Hamazat, The Anambra Cohorts, Miss Jessica, Miss Oge and all campus journalists who came under one fold to advance the cause of Journalism in Nigeria; my own comrades.
Sheriff and I were posted to Oyi LGA with the instructions that we stay in Nteje, this was necessary because of the insecurity situation in the state, IPOB has been creating tension in the state in the buildup of the election. As gentlemen of the press (an attribute that should have longed to be changed), we yielded, we were advised not to show our commando skills on the field. I have learnt so much over the years from Action movies, but it wasn’t just the best time to show off, I concluded within me that the only skill I’ll be showing up is sprinting and jumping through fences and buildings if the need arises. I was prepared.
When we were ready, we headed to Iruchima village 1, Nteje 1 and got there at 8:16 am. There was no sign of voting, no materials, and no INEC staff, just pasted voters list was seen in that Polling Unit (PU), it was same for Amuda civic centre, Ezioye Village hall 1 and 2, Adegbe hall, Ama-Ndida Ogbo Umuefi, Odokwe village square 2 and some others, they all started late contrary to INEC law that elections should start by 8:30 am.
It was 11:00 am, Odokwe Village Squares 1 and 2 just started their accreditation and voting without paying attention to Covid-19 precautionary measures. The aged and disabled weren’t equally giving preference, it was a rowdy activity. There was vote-buying in the polling units, PDP agents and YPP were seen competing for votes, writing down names and giving voters little amounts of money. The YPP Nteje Ward party agent, Edozie Uche, was seen sharing money with voters.
We then proceeded to Isogwugwu square at 12:00 pm and noticed elections were yet to commence. Voters were ready. Edozie Uche the YPP agent who was seen in Odokwe village squares 1 and 2 was also sighted in this PU. No nose masks, no social distancing, voters were agitated and unwilling to adhere to the electoral act read out loudly by the Presiding Officer.
For Umunebo primary school 2, the Biomodal Voters Authentication System (BVAS) has some technical glitches, it failed to accredit some voters. We got to Umunebo Primary school 2 and we noticed an unidentified party agent was seen sharing money to voters, other party agents were equally seen sharing money, paying close attention to the polling booth to see if certain people voted for the party they represent before giving out an agreed amount. Police officers were aware but kept mute, indirectly showing acceptance for these irregularities.
Vote buying was massive in Umunebo primary school 1. APGA, PDP, YPP agents were seen competing for votes, influencing voters’ decisions and giving them different amounts of money, depending on the party. This was however done openly in the presence of 3 police officers and one NSCDC officer. They’ve been bought, in conclusion within myself, it’s evident, those party agents and security operatives were tied together like bread and butter. Well, I was careful and had to leave immediately my partner beckoned on me saying I’m being watched.
The Odubo village hall, Nteje 4, was not exempted from the vote-buying syndrome. An APC agent, Nwabueze Tochukwu, a young boy, probably in his early 20’s was seen giving out money to voters.
All the polling units I visited in Nteje ward 1-5 didn’t pay attention to the COVID-19 precautionary measures. In some polling units, the BVAS kept having technical glitches and police officers were not present in some.
These irregularities have shown that we are a long walk away from a good democratic process and machinery put in place have over time supported it.
We were done for the day and we retired to the hotel, it was a long day. We checked out from the hotel the next day to our different locations saying bye to Anambra but reminiscing on memories created.
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