When I registered to be an election observer, I had no idea what was waiting for me. I thought the whole observation would be online but imagine my shock when I learnt that we’d be on the field taking live updates. The thought of election violence terrified me but the thought of sending live updates to the situation room excited me more so I was all in. The whole pre-observation training was filled with insightful sessions with experienced journalists who put their all into making sure that we were adequately equipped for the task ahead.
All observers were lodged in a hotel on Thursday and we were given a brief rundown of important things to note about Ekiti. Again, the training sessions were insightful and enlightening.
On the eve of the election, we were all moved to INEC head office in Ekiti to get our kits and prepare for the journey ahead. After the whole accreditation process, my partner and I headed to Ijero local government where we were posted to. Getting to Ijero was free of any struggle but finding a place to stay in Ijero proved a bit difficult. Due to the election period, most of the hotels were fully booked but we were able to secure two rooms in a lodge. It wasn’t the best but it was a place to stay. Our first stop in Ijero was the INEC office. We were to take note of how well INEC prepared for the election. From the look of things that evening, INEC seemed fully prepared as the sensitive materials and election kits had already been distributed before our arrival.
I woke up the next morning feeling a thousand emotions at once. I was scared because it was my first time doing fieldwork. I was excited because I loved the idea of being a part of the change that Nigeria needs. I was anxious because Nigerian elections are usually filled with a lot of violent activities. I was in mild pain because Aunty Flo decided to show up that weekend. Regardless of the mixed emotions, I moved and started my observation.
My partner and I set out and I had to travel to another town on a bike, in the cold. It was not the comfiest experience but the views I got to see made up for that. During my transit to the first town, I couldn’t help but notice that there weren’t a lot of security measures at the borders. Yes, Ekiti is a peaceful state but I didn’t think it would hurt to have a few security officials close by in case of anything. The observation process was smooth and without violence.
However, I noticed a few things:
Vote buying was the order of the day. The buying and selling of votes were so obvious I could taste the negotiations in the air. Voters sold their votes for any price ranging from 200 naira – 20000 naira. I was able to capture a few on camera but these agents were really smart. I noticed that the whole vote-buying process was not done at the polling unit but in nearby houses. All that the voters seemed to be concerned about was getting money to feed them the next day. I remember conversing with an indigene who told me blatantly that he would be satisfied with 200naira as a price for his vote. I would suggest more sensitization at the grass-root level and stricter measures put in place to sanction people involved in buying and selling votes.
The turnout of youth was little compared to that of the elderly and this is sad as we have a lot of youths clamouring for change on the internet. Perhaps the reason was the fear of suspected violence or just general disinterest in the political process of this nation. Regardless of the reason for the low turnout of youth voters, I think the youths need to step up and do more.
Harassment of observers. While I wasn’t affected directly, a few of my colleagues were harassed in the course of their duty and it honestly doesn’t sound well if it is heard that, in this age and time, observers and journalists are still being harassed. One of the encounters that hit me was when my partner was harassed right in front of me. After observing a lot of polling units my partner and I decided to meet and get election results from the polling units in Ijero. While discharging our civic duty, my partner was harassed for recording the results of the election at a polling unit. His phone was seized and it seemed like the matter would escalate but I am grateful that it did not. My partner’s story is just one of many other harassment stories. I think that electoral and security officers need to be cautioned against harassing election observers because it shouldn’t be heard that an innocent election observer was harassed for performing his civic duty.
Above all, the election observation process was an eye-opener and I hope that INEC would have a better way of curbing vote-buying during the next election.
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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