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#NigeriaDecides2023: My Enugu Election Observation Diary

Observer’s Diary

A day before the March 25 general election, I enthusiastically entered the streets of Enugu to observe the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) preparedness. 

I was unbothered by the scorching sun due to the adrenaline that surged in me. Unusually, the busy road was relatively deserted, and people seemed to fear the elections, hence the need to stay indoors. There were rumours that the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) issued a sit-at-home order on election day. 

The INEC headquarters looked like a warzone due to the heavily armed security operatives ranging from naval officers to soldiers and officers of the police force. They also placed artillery and armoured tanks in strategic places around the building. 

Despite my fears, I stood my ground and went in after answering several questions about who I was at the entrance. I surveyed the activities, noted that ad-hoc staff were being given their gear, and retired for the day to prepare for election day activities. 

Drivers bail out on election day

The election day started with utter disappointment; the cab driver I employed the day before bailed out due to fears of violence. I called to convince him to change his mind, but he refused and even advised me to lay low during the day, reminding me about the murdered Labour Party senate candidate. 

My backup driver also refused to transport me that day and would only do it if I gave him a whooping sum of thirty thousand naira. I found my way to a road and finally got someone to transport me.

I observed that INEC ad-hoc staff had yet to arrive at the first three polling units I visited, so I decided to wait at the third one. They later showed up at about 11 a.m. On this note, I started my observation exercise, which was smooth and hitch-free. I was stopped a few times for questioning by security operatives, and they let me go when I identified myself.

The polling units, roads, and scenery, were more peaceful than I expected. People walked freely on the road without fear, and there were no issues aside from the initial frustration because of the lateness of INEC officials. Everything went smoothly, and I returned to the INEC headquarters to observe the results collation.

I joined the security personnel waiting for the collation and slept on a carton. Mosquitoes dealt with me that night, and I was tempted to ask the policeman near me whether I could join him in his mosquito net. I found such a request absurd, so I endured till morning. I rinsed my mouth, washed my face and was ready to kickstart the day. 

I ended my election observation when the elections were still not fully collated at about 3 p.m. the next day. 

March 18 gubernatorial election

The day before the March 18 gubernatorial election was rainy, and this restricted movement. As a result of being drenched while confirming the distribution of election materials, I caught a cold and had to resort to medications. 

The election day went smoothly. While INEC ad-hoc staff arrived at polling units early this time, the electorate came in late, possibly taking a cue from the presidential elections when the ad-hoc staff arrived late. I heard the news about election violence in some areas but was lucky not to witness any.

The governorship election was declared inconclusive, and everyone went home waiting for a new date to complete the process.

INEC has several rooms for improvement including arriving polling units on time and making better preparations for collation without delaying observers and security operatives.

DISCLAIMER: This story has been published on Campus Reporter with minimal editing to preserve the original voice of the author.

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