I am someone who always loves Adventure, so when CJID Informed us of the opportunity to observe the Osun state governorship election, I was so happy and I looked forward to it every single day. Although at a point in time, I became nervous when it was precisely three days to D-day. My nervousness was a result of the fear of what might happen to me on the field during this period; not like I didn’t have an idea of the possibilities that could come out of it, but it became intense when I read some of my colleagues’ diaries who had observed in other states election before and the experience they had.
Generally, elections in Osun state are known always to be accompanied by one violence or the other, so as a first-time observer, I was very much on alert on how to be on the safe side no matter the situation in any of the wards I visited. Apart from my alertness and readiness in my mind, the election observation training CJID gave us days before the Ekiti state election was very much in my brain, and I kept meditating over it, making sure I did not miss out on any instructions that could enhance my safety.
The First Trip
As the election day drew close, we were all asked to report in Osogbo, Halatria Hotel on Thursday, 14th of July 2022, on or before 2:00 pm. Failure to do so might lead to us losing the opportunity to take part in the activity. That wasn’t an issue for me because I was coming all the way from Ile-Ife, which is hardly any hour journey to Osogbo.
I arrived in the beautiful and enticing environment of Halatria hotel exactly a few minutes past 12, following the procedures we were asked to do on the group page on our arrival at the hotel, the reception asked me to hold on for a few minutes. Still, his few minutes were going to 30 minutes. One of our colleagues Muktar who came in almost immediately after I arrived at the hotel, also had to wait for a long together with me before we were finally attended to.
Checking into my room and relaxing was quite the easy one while I waited for my roommate Esther Mogaji to join me. She finally arrived around past 4 in the evening, that was when she informed me she had been around for almost more than an hour, but the reception told her the room was not available. It was at that moment I concluded the staff at the hotel were not organized, or they are not used to handling a very large population. The bonding between my roommate and I happened simultaneously as we had a lot to talk about, from the hotel management to our state of academic challenges in the country.
The following morning which was Friday, 15th of July 2022, we were asked to report for a brief meeting, and training session by 6:50 am, but the Meeting time was shifted to 7:45 am as a result of the unavailability of water in most rooms. I was also a victim of this, as I could not take my bath in my room due to no water. My roommate had to go and arrange a room for me to use, as she was already dressed. In short, I took my bath in room 407 after several minutes of hoping the water would run in our bathroom, but it did not.
The meeting, which was basically with Mr Ajibola Hamzat, was very brief, he enlightened us more on all the necessary protocols we should follow to keep us safe when trying to cover the activities, both the legal ones and the illegal ones ones ones going on there. After the meeting, we had our breakfast and headed to INEC Office, where we all got our incomplete kit as election observers. I said incomplete because as an election observer, each of us is supposed to get a writing note, a pen, a sticker, a jacket, a cap, a clear bag and an identity tag. But we were only given a writing note, a pen and insufficient stickers and bags. While somewhere able to get a sticker, some were able to get a bag, but not everyone got the two.
The Second Trip
I was posted to Bolorunduro LGA together with my partner Tosin Ologun. We headed for Otan Ayegbaju, which we believed in the area of the local government. At exactly 3:30 pm. It was difficult to find a commercial vehicle to transport us there because of the election activities and regulations everywhere. We were finally able to reach Otan Ayegbaju by 6 pm after changing the ride from a faulty vehicle to a stable one.
My partner and I headed for the INEC office first to see what was going on and report the preelection process, it was confirmed by some of the officials on the seat that all materials had been moved to each ward, and all things were set. We attempted to get pasted details of the registered voters and the number of wards, but it wasn’t pasted. We asked around for the information, and after a good number of directories, a woman who seemed to be the leading head at the moment informed us to wait outside the office that we would be attending to. Still, my partner and I figured they just wanted to keep us waiting, so instead we left to sort out our accommodation.
It was challenging to secure a room or a safe accommodation in any of the hotels around, as the bike man who drove us around said we had already visited all hotels available in the town and there were no more rooms available, we had to go back to one of the hotels who offered us a room with no door that can be locked properly.
After several negotiations and consideration, we finally lodged in Kolaq international hotel, where we settled in for the day. With not much resting, my partner had to be on the move again to purchase some food items that would keep us for the night and the whole day tomorrow. He also used the opportunity to make arrangements for our transportation for the next day.
The Deal Day
Putting everything in place with our transportation, my partner and I were ready to set out at precisely 7:15 am on Saturday, 16th of July 2022, which was election day. We arranged for two biking men as we had earlier split the location, so we could cover if not all, almost all the wards. Tosin is to cover 6 wards while I am to cover 4 wards. After a brief conversation with my bike man Mr Olalekan who is immediately friendly, we set off for our first destination, ward 7, polling unit 2.
When I got there, I saw a good number of voters already there checking out for their names, and the INEC officials were also on the ground, setting up the materials to use for the activity. The materials transported to this polling unit were not complete and a call had to be made to request the other part of the materials. Seeing the security team on the ground, too, everything looked ordinary apart from the fact that I didn’t see them following the covid-19 protocol rules when the whole exercise started. I headed for the second unit in the same ward, which was polling unit 3; here, I spoke with the INEC officials, asking them when they would start, and I was told 8:30 am. With everything in order, the INEC officials setting up their kits, I saw some materials for safety when following the covid-19 protocol, which posts a high possibility of them following the COVID-19 safety rules.
I also noticed that in both wards I have been to so far, the voting list is not easily accessible for the old people and the disabled people.
Moving to poll unit 6 at around 8:25 am, I waited longer to observe the whole starting process of the exercise, and it was all in order. COVID-19 protocols were followed, and the priority order was also followed, as the old men and women and also the pregnant women were attended to first.
Here I experienced the BVAS system giving slight issues as it took time to recognize the old people’s faces. They had to do capturing for some of them to keep the exercise in progress and not cause any additional delay. From there, I went to polling unit 6 within the same ward. The election had also started here, and COVID-19 protocols were followed. The list that contains the voters’ names was not easily accessible to the old people and crippled ones. In the list, I also confirm the names of those who are already dead and are still on the list.
The last polling unit I visited in ward 7 was polling unit 7, which was pretty far from the others. The situation was the same in this polling unit. There was no record of violence or anything misconduct, apart from the voting list, which is not easily accessible. My bike rider informed me of his intention to vote also, so I asked him to let’s move to his polling unit next.
I was going to start concluding that there was no form of vote trading or vote buying until I got to ward 7 polling unit 3, where my bike man was supposed to vote. On our arrival there, around past 10 in the morning, everywhere was overcrowded and noisy, I saw a security team on the ground there, but it did not stop the act of trade buying. The Money was not exchanged directly, as they already knew themselves. Hence, they just gathered themselves and passed the information, I could not get any picture, but my bike man also did the same thing, as they were all shouting at him to go and collect his money, he told them to give it to his mom, he will collect it from her. Being a friendly man, I quickly took the opportunity to ask him a few questions on our way back, where he confirmed he voted for APC for a total amount of N5000.
Other polling units were very far from each other, and sometimes we spent almost 30 minutes on the road trying to locate each of the polling units. As Covid-19 protocol was followed in some units, it was not followed in some units. I also noticed that no special arrangements were made for those with disabilities to make voting easy for them.
Voting was supposed to end precisely by 2:30 pm but not all polling units could end by that time as there was still a long queue in some places. I stopped finally for the day at ward 7, polling unit 6, where the election exercise started in my presence, so I watched as they ended the whole process and finalised the activity for the day.
At exactly 6:45 pm, my partner and I met at the INEC office where we thought was the collation centre, but we were later informed to head for the palace as that is the venue for the collation centre. By the time we got to the palace, the exercise had already started, but we could not do a proper covering with our phones as both of our phone’s batteries were down. We only made a recording with our pen and writing note.
At exactly 7:22 pm, the collation of all results for Bolorunduro LGA was finished, declaring the PDP candidate as the winner of the local government. Seeing how everything went peacefully, Tosin and I quickly started making arrangements for our transportation that will convey us back to where we would sleep before movements became difficult due to jubilation.
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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