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Opinion

#EkitiDecides: Where Political Giants Buy Electorates Off With A Dime

Observer Diary

 

Ekiti State, one of the southwestern states in Nigeria, once again had its governorship election on the 18th of June 2022.

 

The word ‘stomach infrastructure’ which was coined in 2014 has elevated to the concept of “see and buy” which was recorded at the 2022 governorship election of the state.

 

The election of the state, as observed, was marred with vote-buying by politicians. They were able to entice the electorates with different price tags.

 

In Ijero local government where I observed, in some of the polling units I visited, the electorates had to write their names on a sheet of paper while some would go beside the polling unit to collect their share of the money.

 

Before the election day, I was in Ado, the state capital on Thursday, 16th of June, to have a glimpse of what the political atmosphere would look like.

 

Getting to the state was such a stressful journey. We were stopped by military officials at several checkpoints, asking us who we are and where we are going.

 

Each person had to introduce themselves since we travelled in a commercial car.

 

As expected, political parties blocked the major roads leading to the metropolis. Everywhere was jampacked. Unlike usual days, traffic congestion filled everywhere.

 

On Friday morning, I found my way to the office of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) with other observers of the Centre for Journalism and Innovation Development (CJID), formerly Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ) to collect my election kit.

 

I was deployed to the Ijero local government area under the Ekiti Central Senatorial District to observe the poll.

Locating the local government was very easy for me and a fellow observer paired with me, Oluwaseun Esther Ojo.

 

Before the election day, I located the INEC office which also serves as the collation centre of Ijero local government.

 

As early as 11 am, election materials were distributed to various polling units in the local government on Friday.

 

I was expecting a large turnout of voters but getting to the election field, it was quite different.

 

The election did not just record a low turnout, it was also marred by vote-buying by politicians and party loyalists.

 

Despite the campaign by various Civil Society Organisations, educating voters not to sell their votes, many of them still did.

 

In an entire state, the number of those who decided the fate of who governs the state was not up to 400,000.

 

In most of the polling units I observed, there was vote-buying.

 

Some of them made use of houses near the polling units as their meeting point.

 

I was able to observe keenly how money was shared with electorates.

 

Some electorates had stylishly shown their vote to those who will be paying them before casting it in the ballot box.

 

In all the polling units I observed, electorates were paid between the range of N3,000 and N10,000.

 

Some of the electorates were even fighting for their share of the money distributed.

 

While all these were happening within the premises of the polling units, I could see the security operatives around and I asked myself, is it not right for police to arrest these people?.

 

I had also faced police assault when one of the electoral officers in polling unit 7, Ijero ward B collected my phone and handed it over to the police for compiling the election result on the phone.

 

With my tag on, the police officers could not listen as one threatened to have me arrested and that no one would locate me.

 

As the Osun governorship poll comes up in a few weeks, there is a need for INEC to sensitise and educate electoral officers and security officers more on the proper handling of media and observers in the election field.

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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