The thought of why I’m travelling down to the ancient city of Benin kept ringing in my head while I was in transit. Even with the dramatic display by the happy mother and child sitting beside me, I could see my lips not ready to partake in the laughter.
This was a huge opportunity with Edo State election as my first election observation assignment. I was deployed to Oredo Local Government Area of Edo State. The assignment kicked off with the pre-election observation at the INEC office in Oredo.
On election day, voters came out in mass to vote even with the reality of COVID-19. Some voters adhere to the COVID-19 guidelines, others didn’t, especially social distancing.
PWD and other vulnerable people were considered first according to INEC directives. In some polling units, presiding officers educated voters on INEC directives and need to prevent election violence.
Violence, vote-buying, impersonation, interference, disruption of the election process, intimidation, harassment of observers and other irregularities took place in so many polling units. Many of these activities were spearheaded by party agents.
Party agents interfered in the accreditation and voting process in some polling units like Okemole I, Emokpae primary school, unit 24, Ward 4.
At Ugbague I Fire services (Forestry), polling unit 11, ward 12, there was an incidence of vote-buying, a party agent told some voters on the queue to meet a certain man who was giving out cash after voting, as well as the distribution of ice cream, jollof rice, bread in some units.
The commencement of accreditation and voting was late in so many polling units. No health officials were present to ensure voters compliance with the COVID-19 protocol and perhaps other emergencies while carrying out their constitutional rights.
Some voters did not adhere to the secrecy of the ballot, they didn’t fold their ballot papers as instructed. There was an argument that why should old people or other PWD be allowed to vote first, that it should be “first come first serve” at polling units in Ogbe primary school premises, ward 1.
Voters affirmed their satisfaction with the voting operations. Voters Identification were carefully done by electoral officials from pasting of the voters register to the reading of PVC by card reader machine using biometric screening.
Results management were tough. There was unnecessary delay in collating results in some wards. This gave me a tough time and sleepless night moving in the rain across collation centres at night as some results came in at 3 am and some 4 am at Oba Akenzua Cultural centre before final results announcement at INEC headquarters in Ikpoba Hill Benin City.
As early as 6:00 A.M on election day, military officers made roadblocks. This made me spend hours on the road trying to get to other wards. At Ibiwe, Oba Market premises, Ward 12, a police officer collected the car key of my cab driver stating that I’m supposed to be walking and not move with a car, another officer helped me get the car key back. There were some cases of intimidation and harassment of election observers by party agents and security officers in some polling units in ward 8.
However, security officers were deployed to closely monitor each polling units and ensure voters safety, as well as officials and electoral materials all through the process and to secure the state at large.
A total of 14 candidates registered with INEC to contest in the election. Godwin Obaseki of PDP won with a popular vote of 307,955 (57.3%) of the vote.
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