Having first had the beautiful experience of observing elections during the Ondo State 2020 Gubernatorial Election, the opportunity for Osun State Election came with a different feeling as I already understand how it takes to observe elections but this time it came with a different twist as I was a certified loner when I was deployed to the Ife Central local government area of Osun State. As big as the local government is, I can’t imagine taking a tour and observing local government all by myself.
The journey began when I left for Osun from Ondo State with my colleague and friend, Mr Friday Omoshola; I was looking forward to my first visit to Osun State as a grown-up adult lol, knowing what the state would look like and how better it can be than Ondo State (Ummm). Well, on getting to Osun State I was displeased with the road network in the State Capital Osogbo but what more could I say than to hope for the Osun populace to make the right decision during their polls on the day of the Election.
At exactly noon, we arrived at the Halatria Hotel and Towers, the hotel lodged by CJID observers for the Osun State Election. Because we arrived earlier than the deadline of 2:00 pm, I took a rest then shortly after, my roommate arrived and we got along with each other. However, later that evening I realised that there was a mega rally ongoing by one of the candidate political parties. As an observer, I decided to take a close look and start my pre-observation by weighing the chances of such a candidate in the poll.
After the arrival of all accredited CJID election observers for Osun State, we had a brief meeting with Mr Mboho Eno, who gave a brief security analysis of what the Osun State election could be like according to data from the relevant authorities. He recapitulated the training we did virtually and gave us motivational messages to take away alongside our dinner.
A fruitful and stressful Thursday journey ended with a beautiful sleep that night. On Friday, July 15 2022, began with a brief talk with Mr Ajibola Hamzat the ICIR Managing Editor who taught us how to capture and save photos and videos without getting caught. After the brief talk then, the deployment process kicked in. I was hoping to be in Ife or Osogbo and to have someone with me but as God would have it, I was deployed to Ife Central as a certified loner without a partner. I was shocked, and I kept wondering how am I going to do this all alone. There was a mixed feeling within me, but as God still lives, then indeed there is hope to survive.
After the deployment process, we all set out to the INEC state office to collect our official tags and kits as an observer for the election before proceeding to our various local government observations.
Shortly after we arrived at the INEC state office, CJID had already prepared lunch for us and got us ready for the task ahead. After taking lunch, I and eight others who were deployed to Ife axis set out on our journey.
On getting to Ife Central local government, I linked up with a senior colleague of mine, Mr Samuel Impact, he made me settle down real quick in the environment. After a while, I set out for the local government INEC office in Eleyele, where they were already distributing sensitive materials to various wards and polling units.
After my brief observation, I had to sort my transportation for Election Day with my bike man, who took me down to the INEC office. Later that day, having sorted out every necessary thing expected of me, I had to return to my abode and map out major polling units to visit, as Ife Central had 11 Wards and 168 Polling Units in total.
As a loner, I am expected to cover a meaningful number of polling units which prompts me to strategise and map out the critical polling units so it would be easier for my bike man and myself.
I woke up at 5:00 am on Election Day, mapping out the polling units to visit and observe the electioneering process. I had my morning devotions as usual. I was a certified loner in Ife Central local government, the area I was deployed to observe and give reports from election updates. Fast forward to 7:00 am, my bike man Mr Schoolboy as he prefers to be called, was ready for the journey ahead, knowing it would be a big task covering the third most significant local government with the third highest registered voters.
By 7:30 am, the bike man set out to different polling units and wards as I strategically mapped out the wards based on proximity.
My first stop was at Ward 05, polling unit 02. The INEC officials assigned to the unit had just arrived and set up the voting cubicle, and party agents were signing the registers meant for them. The neighbouring polling unit, Polling Unit 05, was a 5 minutes walkthrough. When I got there, the INEC officials were already set for voting to commence as voters were already ready to cast their votes.
I got to PU 07 still in Ward 05, and voting had commenced by 8:30 am, the standard time when voters were casting their votes. INEC officials observed a priority voting for People living with disabilities (PWDs) and elderly people.
Although, I observed how security personnel let vote buying become a norm in the electoral process of our dear nation. I recall how my bike man saved me from the hands of thugs when I was caught taking a video of the polling unit. Vote-buying was the order of the day in Ife Central local government, where voters cast for the highest bidder and in return, they cooked a pot of soup.
Out of 66 polling units I visited across 11 wards, I noticed vote-buying in just 10 polling units. The first one was Ward 2, polling unit 02. The man was holding a little piece of white card paper which he gave out to anybody who voted for his party. There was secrecy in voting in that polling unit. A voter who cast her vote for APC shows it stylishly while dropping the ballot paper in the box.
The same scenario occurred in polling units where vote buying was observed. It reached a point where my bike man was my hero, and he saved me from thugs who wanted to ambush me and smash my phone because I was trying to take a picture and clear video recording of how they were going about telling people who to vote for. If not for my bike man who saved me that day telling them not to touch me or else he will bring his men. It was at this point I knew my biking man must belong to some cult group. I thank God for the whole experience.
I must commend the introduction of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) machine. The BVAS has reduced any form of election manipulation and has made the process a lot easier in electoral process; all Presiding officers I spoke with had no complaints about the machine’s efficiency.
Ife Central was peaceful all through the polling units where I observed all though the issue of vote buying is still a menace to the environment.
Also, I urge INEC to always follow their rules during the build-up of the Osun State election. INEC promised to relocate polling units in front of politicians and royal homes. In some polling units in Ife central, these units are still in front of royal homes when they ought to be relocated.
There is a need for INEC to educate the security personnel on their actual duty in their role when on election duty. I recall when I called the attention of a police officer to the apparent sign that vote-buying agents were using only for the officer to be speaking grammar with me.
In all, INEC did well in the whole process, and I hope the 2023 General Elections will be the best if they maintain the standard.
The collation of the local government’s votes ended at 10:30 pm, my bike man had already declined to come and pick me up as it was very late and very far from where he was. Still, as God would have it, a Good Samaritan who was rejoicing from the victory of the winner of the election took me on his bike and even had to get another bike for me when his fuel finished halfway into the journey.
It was a wonderful experience in Osun state with the electioneering process. I’m grateful to the entire team of the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID) for allowing campus journalists to have a feel of the on-field election experience. A more reason why I called this (A certified loner promoting democracy through election observation)
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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