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#NigeriaDecides2023: My Osun state election observation diary

Observer’s diary

Seeing the Nigerian electoral process through the lens of a reporter was worth it. It brought me close to almost all stakeholders in the electioneering process, from the security operatives to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) officials and ad-hoc staff, other media organisations and observer groups.

Having observed the 2022 Osun gubernatorial election with the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID), I was relaxed and knew what to expect. 

Pre-election activities

Two days before the Presidential and National Assembly election scheduled for 25 February 2023, I went to the Osun State INEC headquarters to collect my observer’s kit. It was meant to contain a pen, notepad, flash drive, jacket, face cap, car sticker and identification tag, but only the identification tag was given to me. I was told other materials had yet to arrive from Abuja and that I would get a call to pick them up, but the call never came.

Since I would need cash to sort logistics during my election duty, I went to a Point of Sales (POS) outlet that charged 25% for any amount withdrawn. It seemed fair, considering the nationwide cash scarcity.

After getting cash and printing my Campus Reporter ID, I searched for a bike man and reached an agreement with Mutiu Amusat. I then headed to the INEC office for the Oshogbo local government. I left at about 6:45 pm when I saw INEC officials loading election materials in vehicles meant to convey them to their various stations.

Election day activities

On election day, I started out as early as 7 am. Between 7 am and 9 am, INEC officials were setting up and briefing the electorates who were waiting to vote. Because Senator Ajibola Basiru – an APC candidate representing the Osun Central senatorial district – would be voting at PU 03, Ward 07 along Ibokun road, I directed my bike man to take me there. Unfortunately, he had cast his vote by the time I arrived there.

At PU 04, Ward 10, I first noticed elements of vote buying when I heard a party agent asking a man if he had voted and had been given a ticket. I believe the ticket would be exchanged for money later.

During the election, there was priority voting at all polling units I visited; pregnant women, the aged and people living with disabilities were prioritised over other people. No underage voter was also sighted at any polling unit in Osogbo LGA. Deployment of security operatives was adequate, and the election was generally peaceful in Osogbo LGA.

I headed to the Olorunda local government at about 10 am. At PU 12, Ward 04, gunshots could be heard from police officers stationed about 100 meters away, and the reason was unknown. At the polling unit of PU 02, Ward 05, I caught a woman on camera while compiling the names of people who voted for her party.

On my way to Salvation Army Grammar School, we met a roadblock at the popular Aregbe car park. I allowed to pass by the officers that manned the roadblock after identifying myself as an accredited journalist on election duty; that was after one of them requested that I show him the content of my knapsack, which I obliged. My knapsack had my power bank, charger, bottled water, notepad, keys and wallet inside.

Vote sorting and counting

Generally, voting ended at about 2 pm, and counting started. I went to the RAC, and the results began arriving. At the RAC, there was no electricity supply, so torchlights from mobile phones were used for election results collation. By 8 pm, I went to the local government collation centre, where I met only the collation officer for the National Assembly election, who introduced himself as Adeetan. He added that collation would start as soon as Ward collation officers came in.

Soon, election results started arriving, and collation started. While collation was ongoing, party agents were fighting because an agent of the PDP insisted that the results of a polling unit be cancelled due to overvoting.

I learned that the original results of PU 02 Ward 08 were given to security operatives at the polling unit instead of a duplicate. The collation officer requested the original result, and the presiding officer of the presiding officer could not produce it nor trace the security men. The collation process at the Osogbo local government was slowed down due to overvoting and other irregularities.

Around 6 am the following day, chaos broke out outside the collation centre because ad-hoc staff decried the ill-treatment they got from INEC. They repeatedly chanted: “we are going home; we are not interested in the money”. It was later gathered that they were paid just N4000 a day before the election with no provision for their accommodation while on election duty. 

The collation of the presidential election results of the LGA ended around 6:30 am, and the result was taken to the state INEC headquarters for state collation.

I immediately left for the Osogbo City Hall, Olonkoro, where the final collation for the Osun Central Senatorial District and the Irepodun/Orolu/Osogbo/Olorunda Federal Constituency election would be collated. 

While I was there, the results from different LGAs were brought in for collation; one Professor Usman from the University of Ibadan, also introduced himself to me as the returning officer for the Osun Central Senatorial District election. 

The results were collated, and just before the announcement of the results, an APC agent requested that the collation process be suspended. The returning officers, however, declared the results and the PDP candidates were declared winners in both the House of Representatives and Senatorial District elections.

Jubilation erupted outside the collation centre, and the winning team moved towards Old garage while I also found my way home.

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

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