On Thursday the 16th of June, I arrived in Ado Ekiti ahead of the Ekiti state gubernatorial elections 2022, where I was to serve as a domestic observer with the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development. Election observation, for me, has been another avenue to learn about our Nigerian people, our local communities, democracy and nationalism, growth levels and the challenges experienced in these places.
It may not have been my first time as an election observer, but it was definitely my first time in Ekiti state, and as one who doesn’t understand or speak Yoruba the language of the natives here, I was a bit tense about how my interaction and communication was going to turn out. But alas, all I can say is that the people of Ekiti state are peace-loving people with great hospitality indoctrinated into their culture, norms and traditions. I felt this first hand.
I was deployed to Ekiti South West Local Government Area, and what we will term adventures began right away. Friday 17th of June, at about 1 pm I got to Ilawe, the local government headquarters of Ekiti South West, and at my time of arrival, there was no vacant room left at any of the three hotels in the area, though I was eventually able to get a bed space at some local guest house in the region before nightfall.
On our way to the Local Government Area’s INEC office which will also be used as the Local Government’s collation centre for familiarisation purposes, I asked my driver which polling unit he will be casting his votes in, he gave a reply that will project the thought processes of over 50% of the natives of Ekiti South West local government area. “Me I don’t vote oh, it’s nonsense, they (political officers) don’t know what they are doing, they come share money, and get into office and we suffer for another four years, it’s all nonsense…” I later found out in the course of the elections observation that a lot of persons in the region shared this philosophy.
The Election Day
It was a cold and wet morning in Ilawe, this is definitely a result of the drizzles experienced the night before. It’s Saturday, 18th of June, 2022, the gubernatorial elections are well underway. The voters were out early, the electoral officers were out early, and by 8:30 AM voter accreditation processes had started in most polling units across the wards Ilawe 1, 2, and 3.
One key point I will love to lay emphasis on will be the voters’ turnout for the elections. Just opposite St Michael’s Primary School, Ilawe Ward 2, young men could be seen drinking palm wine and making arguments as the elections went on just at the opposite end of the road. The number of voters available for accreditation and voting did not at any polling unit match the number of registered voters. In a general case, Ekiti Local Government Area had a total of Fifty-three thousand seven hundred and thirteen (53, 713) registered voters, but only Nineteen thousand, nine hundred and eighty-two (19, 982) voters turned out for accreditation and voting exercise, that’s way below 50% of the number of registered voters.
Because of the low turnout of voters, the elections ended a lot early. The elections were somewhat of a peaceful and violent free one, except for the reported case of polling units 5 and 6 of Ilawe Ward 6 where there was a reported armed attack and the ballot boxes were snatched. I was not at this polling unit at the time of the attack to have witnessed the flow of events first-hand, but the INEC Officials later reported that the units affected had about 600 accredited voters at the time of the attack.
The Police Harrasment
It was around 10:50 am, at St Mary’s Primary school, which housed polling units 1, 2, 5 and 6 of Ilawe Ward 2. Heavily armed security officers just arrived in about five police patrol vans. I was recording a video document at the time, about 6 of them closed in on me, immediately seized my phone, took my glasses, and asked for a licence to use a private phone for official media coverage, after I verbally series of verbal threats and roughly patched interview. I was soaked in some deep fear as these men were masked and heavily armed, but somehow I managed not to express the anxiety at any point, which they took to be huge stubbornness from my end.
They took me to another officer who appeared to be their commanding officer, he asked me a few questions, which I answered, he verified my identity tags, and then instructed them to leave me alone and that I meant no harm and was actually working as a domestic media observer with INEC’s accreditation, I guess he was the only one that understood what I was actually doing among all the officers present in patrol team.
He apologised for the brief moment of harassment and asked that I continue my job as assigned, all of this took about twenty to thirty minutes and I can say that that was the longest thirty minutes of my stay in Ekiti state.
Nigerian Democracy can and will be better, soon enough the issues of inclusion, priority voting, vote-buying, under-age voting, etc will be a thing of the past. In my opinion, this will be achieved only when the masses are properly sensitised, and educated with the right information and knowledge which will in turn guard the behavioural patterns to be witnessed during times of democratic rights participation as this.
Elections are conducted, won and lost with great influence of the grassroot levels, let’s take education to the grassroots and build all the way up from there.
God bless Nigeria
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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