My participation in the Edo state election was a wonderful experience I will not forget in a long time. Initially, I was afraid of going and almost opted out because of the fear of violence as predicted by pundits, but having done this in Osun in 2018, I summoned the courage and in the end, I’m glad I went. I was deployed to Uhunmwonde Local Government Area, a relatively remote part of the state. Uhunmwonde has ten wards and 91 polling units.
On arrival to Benin on Friday, September 18, 2020 (a day to election day), my team and I were unable to travel to Uhunmwonde for pre-election observation because we arrived late after coming from far distances.
As early as 6:30 am on Saturday, September 19, 2020 (election day), I set out with my team from Benin, the state capital, to my local government, Uhunmwonde. We arrived at the local government early enough before the opening of the poll at any polling unit.
Opening Of Poll – Ward 1 (Ehor), Polling Unit 007 (Eguada Primary School, Ehor, Uhunmwonde LGA).
We arrived at the above-named polling unit at about 8:10 am to observe the opening of the poll. By that time, no INEC official was on the ground. I moved to other polling units to observe the situation of things. This polling unit was not opened for voting until 9:30 am due to the late arrival of materials and officials. When voting commenced, there was no issue with any of the materials such as the card reader as the accreditation of voters and voting went on smoothly. However, COVID-19 prevention measures such as social distancing and the use of face masks were not followed. Hand sanitizers were made available to voters by INEC.
Policemen and civil defence corps officials were on the ground and were professional in carrying out their duties. The atmosphere was peaceful and orderly as voters cooperated with the officials and security personnel.
Closing Of Poll – Ward 1 (Ehor), Polling Unit 007 (Eguada Primary School, Ehor, Uhunmwonde LGA)
I got back to this same polling unit I observed for the opening of the poll by 2:30 pm. Voting ended around 3:35 pm after the last person in line (by 2:30 pm) voted. About 27 people were in line when the stipulated closing time elapsed.
After the last person voted, the presiding officer officially closed the poll and cancelled all unused ballot papers by crossing them. The ballot papers were emptied on the table before counting was done in the presence of party agents and security personnel.
Final results were recorded in EC 8A form and the final result was announced at the polling unit as at 5:15 pm. The final result was signed by all the party agents present and the form EC 60E was displayed at the polling unit for everyone to see. The picture below shows the result of the election at the polling unit:
Form EC 60 (E) pasted at Ward 1 (Ehor), Polling Unit 007 (Eguada primary school, Ehor, Uhunmwonde LG)
We faced some challenges with security personnel (police and soldiers) at checkpoints on the highway. At a point, an officer asked us to park our car and complained about us roaming up and down. We had to beg and wait for a few minutes before we were released.
Another major challenge we faced on the field was poor network. Our reports were delivered too late due to the poor network in those rural communities.
In Nigeria, people do not get involved in the electoral process due to two major reasons; the fear of violence and a lack of conviction that one’s vote would count in a country where rigging of elections has almost become a norm. But to the surprise of many, the election was, to a large extent, peaceful, free and fair. There was a high turnout of voters in all local governments.
At the end of the day, I was happy to contribute my quota in upholding the tenets of democracy and in nation-building. My experience was one to remember. I thank PTCIJ and YIAGA Africa for this privilege.
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