This is not the regular opinion article you read on Campus Reporter. As you will soon find out, it is a diary – an observer’s diary. It is the best to read and most enjoyed by the writer. But you can continue reading. You may, at least, find a line that will ring some bell and resonate with you.
On Monday, 29th March 1920, Nigeria recorded her first election ever. It was during the pre-independence era. And it was an election to the council – the Lagos Town Council – after the elective democracy was introduced in May 1919. Ever since, in the history of democracy in Nigeria, elections have kept evolving, and we can say, for the better. Gone are the days of disruption of electoral processes and ballot box snatching, hopefully.
Elections not only evolved in quality of process but also in the organizing institutions, from ECN to FEC in 1960. Then, in 1978, from FEC to FEDECO. In 1993, FEDECO handed the baton to NECON. And finally, to INEC in 1998, which has been organizing elections till today.
Since my awareness of elections in Nigeria, I can boldly say that Nigeria’s elective democracy is improving. But there still remains a pain in the butt that we must nip in the bud.
To keep the masses informed and to help restore some sanity in electoral processes in Nigeria, it is essential to have a system in place to watch the process closely and objectively. And that is why the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID) has taken this responsibility religiously.
Alongside other colleagues, as campus journalists, I was there in Osun. As an election observer.
Osun 2022 Guber Election: How I Started
At 12:36 pm on Wednesday 13th July, I got an instruction to check in to my hotel room in Osogbo latest by 2 pm the following day – in preparation for the Saturday 16th Osun gubernatorial election. Having observed guber elections in Edo, Ondo, and Anambra states: I am mobilized for the fourth time to observe the gubernatorial election in Osun State.
“Be there by 2 pm, or you forget about it,” the message read.
The message met me in Ogbomosho, Bowen University Teaching Hospital, to be precise, where I was with my cousin staying with my sick aunt. When I got the message, I knew it would be so challenging to meet up. I can’t leave the hospital just like that without fulfilling the essence of my visit. I paid less concern to the instruction, but I was hopeful that I would meet up.
Then, the following day came. It was Thursday morning. And I was still in BUTH.
My mind kept beckoning for me to take my leave…but my conscience kept telling me to stay more.
I obeyed my conscience, and I waited till my aunt said by herself that I should start going.
Convergence Time Remained 2 pm
I left BUTH around 11 am, and I knew no magic that could carry me from Ogbomosho to Oyo to Osogbo in less than 3 hours. Then, I decided to reach out to Bukunmi, the CJID staff coordinating the whole arrangement.
“Good morning, ma. I want to notify you about the possibility of coming late to Osogbo. I was staying with my sick aunt in BUTH, Ogbomosho and I was able to take my leave some minutes ago”, I said. “Journeying from Ogbomosho to Oyo and then to Osogbo may not be so fast. But I’ll try my best to be punctual.”
“Good morning Abiola! You didn’t mention this yesterday. The latest I can give you is 3 pm. If you’re not in the hotel by then, there’s nothing I can do. I wish you a safe trip,” she replied.
And that’s it. I got a 1-hour grace…and I tried my best to waste no time.
I travelled from Ogbomosho to Oyo and Osogbo without observing even a minute of rest. I was welcomed in Osogbo by the ‘Imole campaign train’. It was a hell of a crowd as Osun PDP held its final and main rally. I checked into my hotel room at Halatria Hotel and Towers at 2:58 pm.
Yes, it was 2 minutes to the deadline, and I felt so proud of myself that I did not misuse the grace.
I took a warm shower. I freshened up and tuned to Channels TV to watch the live transmission of PDP’s main rally right there in room 417, Halatria Hotel. Shortly, my intestine started beckoning to me for some food. So I set out to find something to eat outside the hotel. I couldn’t find excellent food. The restaurant beside the hotel couldn’t help my situation as no stew was available then. I had no option but to eat my ‘white poison’ – bread.
I ate and rested. I daydreamed and was distressed till we were summoned to an evening meeting. We trained. We ate dinner and departed to our respective rooms to retire for the day.
The following morning…a Friday morning. We had a brief training session with ICIR’s managing editor, Mr Ajibola Amzat. Then, we proceeded to Osun State INEC Headquarters to collect our observers’ kits. After which, we set out to our respective LG of primary assignment.
I was deployed alongside Abigail Akinola to the Iwo Local Government Area of Osun State.
We did all due diligence after alighting at the Oba Market. We went to Iwo INEC Office for pre-election observation. We arranged for election day transport with Mr. Ade and his friend, my namesake – Abass. We secured hotel accommodation at HMD Hotel and Suites after about three failed initial trials in other hotels.
And now…we were set for the D-day.
#OsunDecides2022 As I Saw It
I have witnessed several elections in Nigeria in which the major political parties engaged in a full-blown tussle. Nay, Osun 2022 guber election was not an exception. It was happening right under my watch as APC was trading votes with money. And PDP’s ‘Imole’ train also spending their money.
Even if the day was sunny, mummy must fill her tummy, and she has to collect the money.
The trading of votes continued. And it was not funny. And many voters cared about the man that came with more money.
Though the election was rife with vote trading, I could still see its bright side. At least it was peaceful.
It happened under my watch at Ward 4 – Polling Unit 5, where security personnel were collecting bribes, and the Presiding Officer was trading his conscience with an amount of less than N10,000.
Ward 4 – Polling Unit 1 was where I saw another police officer – Damilola Aboderin by name – collecting a certain amount from a party agent. “It is N10,000”, I heard while eavesdropping when he gave his colleagues feedback.
I observed about 35 polling units, and there was hardly one where vote trading was not ongoing. Just in some of these PUs the trading process was highly systematic and very hard to notice or capture.
But while all these were going on, I saw the bright side. At least it was peaceful.
The Fate of People With Disabilities (PWDs)
After a lot of noise from various quarters, all INEC could do to aid the voting process for PWDs was the priority voting policy. None of the polling units I visited had any material provisions such as ramps, magnifying glasses, or braille ballot papers. In fact, the voters’ lists in most of the PUs were not easily accessible to PWDs unless they summoned help from someone nearby.
In this regard, INEC needs to improve and make patriotism easier for these people.
And I Was Engrossed
Throughout the entire exercise, I was fully engrossed that I abandoned a lot of ‘important’ activities and discussions. And it was the same experience for Abigail, my colleague.
“It feels so good to be so busy and focused on an activity like this. It made me feel a sense of fulfilment,” she said.
In my own case, I left a lot of conversations unattended on my WhatsApp.
“I’m sorry for my late response. I was busy with election observation in Osun”, I said in a WhatsApp conversation with a friend.
“How was the election there?” he asked.
“At least it was peaceful,” I replied.
DISCLAIMER: This story has been published on Campus Reporter with very minimal editing to preserve the original voice of the author.
Inside UNILAG: A Tale of Rising Fees, Sinking Hopes, Caught in a Web of Dreams
While in 2021, 33% of Nigeria’s population was unemployed, World Bank projections reveal that the onset of 2022 pushed an…
Campus Reporter, CJID, Trains 52 UDUS Students On Evidence-based Reporting
Campus Reporter, a journalism project of the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID), trained 52 Campus Journalists and Mass…