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#OsunDecides2022: Between improved INEC, strategic vote buying, and Nigerian voters

Observer’s Diary

The chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, had promised the best election in 2023. If the promise is anything to hold onto, then the Ekiti and Osun elections are good signals. 


However, despite social media’s unanimous decision against vote buying, the Osun state election was just another confirmation of Nigeria’s age-long political insensitivity. 


Here’s a diary conjured out of realities and discoveries on Nigerian politics and the hypocritical nature of Nigerian citizens, which confirms why there’s still a long walk to freedom. 


Getting Ready


Having completed election monitoring duty in Ekiti state gubernatorial election, I gathered enough experience that prepared me better for the Osun state gubernatorial election. 


We set out to our different assignment areas. I was posted to the Boripe local government area, the polling unit of the incumbent governor, Gboyega Oyetola.


Prior to our arrival, I had heard of possible outbursts in that polling unit since it’s a stronghold for the ruling party.


My colleague and I arrived at our place of assignment a day before the election to survey the area and make necessary preparations. We visited the INEC office on Friday to form acquaintances with the officials. 


A Rainy Morning


Saturday was blessed with heaven’s dew. I prepared for the cold weather with a sweater but setting out in the rain was proving difficult. 


When my chartered motorcycle could venture out in the rain, I stopped over at the INEC office before leaving for the wards in Boripe local government. 


Accreditation across the wards started at 8:30. The voters’ lists were pasted in each polling unit to confirm voters’ eligibility. However, voters in some units have difficulty confirming their names due to old age or disability. This problem was only rectified late into the voting process. 


The election started simultaneously with accreditation. Unlike in the Ekiti state election, the Biomodal Voters Accreditation System, BVAS, had no issue in the polling units that I covered. 


Discreet Vote Buying 


One usual narrative that comes with elections in Nigeria is the vote-for-money discourse. The Osun state gubernatorial election wasn’t any different. If it was any consolation, it was strategic this time around. The buyers and sellers appeared to have a synergy that would almost make anyone conclude that there was no vote buying. 


The vote-buying act was not done in public in the places I visited. The scene was a bit far from the voting centre, making it almost impossible to be discovered. I spoke with witnesses who confirmed that voters and party agents were having discreet negotiations and arrangements before approaching the voting centre. 


Despite my fears, there were no confrontations within or among parties. However, I observed that other parties except the ruling All Progressives Congress had no voice. It further confirmed that Boripe local government belonged to the incumbent governor.


INEC Getting Better


I observed that INEC made some improvements in their operations. There are noticeable differences between the Ekiti and Osun States elections. The BVAS worked more accurately and effectively in Osun state. The vote buying was not obvious, and the officials looked more like they knew their job. 


Looking Forward


The Osun state gubernatorial election indicates the possibility of having free and fair elections in Nigeria. Despite its flaws, too, little success can be used to measure how far INEC and other stakeholders in the system can go in conducting credible elections. 


However, more can be done to curb vote buying. Its continuous existence only shows that social media has less impact on real-life voting decisions. Regardless of the likes and retweets against vote buying, the business of selling votes appears to be lucrative for those who actually come out to vote during elections. 


The social media judges can continue to pass judgments against all the ills associated with Nigerian politics and elections, but the ones who cast their votes under sun and rain are the real deciders of the Nigerian voting system and, as a result, our democracy.

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