My partner and I were assigned to Moba Local government area, an LGA comprising Otun-Ekiti, Igogo, Ikun, Osun and nine other towns, a testament to the vastness of the local government. We started by locating the guest houses in Otun-Ekiti upon our arrival at the local government. In the process, we tried negotiating with a bike man to move one of us around on election day. The man we got was a party agent who would not be available on the election day. So, he referred OJ, a bike man and a native of the local government to us. OJ then connected my partner with another bike man. Right there, my experience as an Ekiti state election observer started.
I was lucky to have observed the Anambra state gubernatorial election and the just-concluded Ekiti state election is far from what I experienced in the South-east. I started my observation at Igogo. Most election officials arrived at their polling units early, with some of them starting the accreditation process at the slated 8:30 am, while some struggled to control the electorates and started late.
On a general note, it was a very peaceful election in the local government. My partner and I had no record of violence in the local government. However, there is a new strategy of sharing money with voters at polling units and I believe some security officers could be in on it. Apparently, there is no reason an electorate shouldn’t have his privacy when casting his ballot. Party agents make glaring efforts to see the vote to ascertain if the voter voted for his party. I called it a ‘breach in the election process’ on the day of the election.
One of the notable levels of ignorance exhibited by the electorates is the know-how of vote casting. Beyond the set of people with an intention to let the party agents know they voted for the party, some electorates make the mistake of revealing their vote while casting the ballot. The elderly ones amongst the electorates are accompanied by party agents into the polling booth. Meanwhile, some security personnel managed the party agents interfering in the process at some polling units in the LGA. The fact, however, remains that the process was marred by disorderliness and incompetencies.
The major headline of the election was the vote-buying perpetrated by the major parties involved in the election. From my time on the field, moving around Igogo, Moba LGA, I learned that party agents are aware of the presence of the media and objective observers. Hence, they have come up with a way to avoid the lens of observers and the media. In a polling unit, I spent a longer period observing how a party agent was putting down names at a particular polling unit, standing in an area where he would have a clear view of where the voter places his thumb. When I asked my bike man what the names are for. He said the names are for those voting for a particular party. “Hope no problem,” he asked. I told him I was just curious.
Most polling units struggled to control the voters. As recommended by INEC, there ought to be an outer queue and inner queue at every polling unit to make the process very organized and systematic. However, not many polling units adhered to this recommendation by INEC. Similarly, some polling unit officials were not adhering to the covid-19 protocols, a situation found amongst the electorates in the local government. Some polling units had no queue at all. It is also noteworthy that the officials must prioritize the votes of the physically-challenged, elderly people and visibly pregnant women. Some polling units had seats for the elderly while some could not provide enough seats. The crux of the matter is to let these people vote and leave the polling units as early as they can.
Back to my bike man, OJ is a typical responsible Nigerian man who works to feed his family. He doubles as a bike man and a carpenter. He embodies what the Ekiti state election was all about money-making. He came out to me as a patriotic Nigerian when he insisted he would cast his vote. He, however, had a hidden agenda. “He isn’t a patriot after all,” I thought to myself. He sold his vote to two parties. He, in fact, got into an argument with a party agent to receive his money. The Moba LGA indigene told me if he wasn’t moving around with me, he would probably make more money on the day. “Money is still left with the party agents,” he shouted out as we combed through the roads of Igogo. I still recall a party agent assuring him he will get paid. He, however, insisted he puts his name down, too.
Ultimately, the INEC officials need to be thoroughly trained in their roles. Some of the officials do not know an attendance register even exists for election observers. Some polling units were in total shambles, with the security officers staying idle under a tree, minding their business. Some INEC officials, as a result, complained that the officers are not doing their job. Agents interfered a whole lot in the election. Security officers must therefore put the party agents in their place when they interfere in the process. Young voters should also make efforts to allow the elderly ones to cast their votes early. Without ammunition, security officers can still assist the INEC officials in their assignments. Most of the officials are young people and may struggle to control a crowd of elderly people.
The Osun state gubernatorial election is only a few weeks away. As an observer and a Nigerian, I hope to see a more organized process at the polling units of Osun state ahead of the 2023 general elections.
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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