I was privileged to be a domestic election observer in the just concluded Osun state 2022 governorship election on July 16th, 2022. As a first-time observer, Anxiety took the better part of me, and different questions kept popping up in my head, which I was unable to provide answers to. It was a mixed feeling of excitement based on the experience I was about to witness and fear of I don’t know what exactly election observation entails even though I have been given a hint on what it means.
It was 6:02 am on July 14th, 2022, when I left home for Iyana Ipaja park to board a bus going to Osogbo. I left early because I know how much Lagos traffic can humble you, and we were given a stipulated time which all CJID observers should meet up in HALATRIAS HOTEL, Osogbo.
I was only deceiving myself when I said I left home early so as not to encounter the Lagos traffic palaver because, at that time, Lagos Street was already filled with the hustle and bustle thing and, of course! I couldn’t escape Lagos traffic.
I was getting excited already hoping I would be able to meet up in the hotel at the given time, which was 2:00 pm, only for me to get to Ede- Osogbo road and I saw traffic, but thanks to GOD, the traffic was moving, but then again, I could feel the election atmosphere already, armour tanks with soldiers at most junctions, I saw different buses which it passengers wore the same native wears and was screaming IMOLE! IMOLE!! at the top of their voices. I got to OWODE market, it was also IMOLE! IMOLE!! IMOLE!!!
Alas, the bus driver got to the motor park, and I did not wait for a minute to find my way out of the park because time was almost against me. Luckily, I got a bike to convey me to HALATRIA HOTEL, but the bike man seemed not to be familiar with the hotel, which he pretended like he knew where I was heading to, you can imagine!
I had not even started my journey to the hotel when I almost got hit by another bike that had shown up from nowhere, all thanks to the bike man who was able to do his magic because I don’t know what happened there. I was still on my way to the hotel with the shock of how I almost got knocked down by another bike playing in my head when I saw a large crowd I mean, a LARGE crowd on the right side of the road, while the IMOLE allies were on the left side of the road with me, this made everyone on the left lane stopped to know what exactly was going on, the crowd was getting closer, and we found out it was APC youth supporters having their rally that same day. A man whom I suspect to be their youth leader saw everyone on the left lane was not moving, and he decided to calm everyone by saying, “we are not fighting, we are not causing trouble, we are just doing our own here, please do not be scared.” I guess it was a huge relief, and everyone was able to proceed with their journey.
It was not even one minute distance from the APC drama. I saw another disturbing and horrible event. Ask me what I saw! It was a young man on the floor, in pain and crying for help, I looked further, and I saw blood on the floor, his trousers were torn already, and I could see the broken bones in one of his legs!! All I was just hearing from the people around that time I got there was, ah! ikule abiyamo ooo (the agony of motherhood). Everyone showed sympathy, but nobody was willing to help! Nobody moved closer to him, not even the people in the same lane with the victim. As of when I got to the scene, nobody felt the need to help, but they could help by showing their level of sympathy. I don’t know what happened, but I could tell it was a fresh accident, and by then, the people around him should have offered assistance.
I was trying to wrap it around my head, the fate of the victim who had an accident. This was something he never planned for, and I was reminiscing on the incidents I had encountered from the park to the point where I met the victim when I noticed my bike man asking for Halatria hotel; I got frustrated when we were told we’d missed the hotel. I got frustrated more when he told me he couldn’t go further and I’ll have to find my way to the hotel. I had no choice but to do as he said, I asked for descriptions from people I met on my way, and I was directed to the hotel. After a long distance, I was able to find a HALATRIAS HOTEL, a sigh of relief! I checked into the hotel at 1:54 pm.
At 7:00 pm, we were summoned for dinner and a brief meeting by Mr Mboho. After discussion from every angle, the meeting finally ended. I got back to my room and decide to ask my roommate what this “ELECTION OBSERVATION” was about, and she did give a bit-by-bit explanation. I felt good a bit after her I had a chat with her, and that was it for the day.
A meeting was scheduled for 06:50 am, and my roommate and I were done preparing and ready for the meeting. The meeting was postponed until 7:45 am due to the fact some of my colleagues were unable to get water to bathe.
The meeting commenced with Mr Hamzat, who gave some tips on election observation. After a brief talk from Mr Hamzat and Madam Busola, everyone was assigned to their local government area for their assignments, either with or without a partner to work with. Breakfast was served, and then we headed to the INEC office to get our kits for the election. From Halatria hotel was a smooth journey until we got stuck in traffic, as it was just only one road lane available for vehicles that day, and the other lane was blocked due to reasons best known to them.
I was busy on my phone when I heard my colleague saying, “so, no one can even help him out” I looked up at what she was referring to, and I saw an elderly man struggling to pull out his bike that got stuck in between the covets that led to the other lane left for all vehicles to use since the other lane got blocked by the police, other bike men behind him were not ready to help him, but I could understand the fact that they needed to be on their bike as well but what about other passengers/people who just stood there and watch him struggle with his bike? I begin to wonder if it’s the culture of the Osun people not to offer help when someone else is in a state of distress or if it was just a mere coincidence at that time?
We got to the INEC office and waited patiently for Mr Bako to arrive and dispatch the election kits, he arrived just in time, and the distribution of election kits was done earlier than expected. We got back to the hotel, picked up our lunch, and checked out of the Halatria hotel to our various local governments for our assignment.
It was just I and my partner (Abass Abiola Abdulazeez) on our way to IWO local government. We found a bus in no time! And we started our journey to IWO, the journey was supposed to last 1hr/9min, but due to bad roads, it lasted 2hrs. The INEC office in IWO was easily found with the help of my partner and his google map.
It was time to get accommodation which seemed a little bit hard but finally saw a quite comfortable place to settle for. Accommodation and logistics for the election were sorted. Abass is someone who doesn’t joke with his Muslim prayers, and I wonder how he was able to get a mosque so fast in IWO.
Abass returned from the mosque, and we had a stroll to get junk to sustain us for tomorrow’s assignment. We discussed the election observation, and he assured me it was not something hard as I thought it was and that I would love the experience. And that was it for the day.
THE ELECTION DAY
Abass and I got prepared for the day job, we waited for our bike men, and they arrived immediately. Abass mentioned to my bike man places he should take me to for my assignment.
My bike man did as my partner instructed him and the polling units I visited had a peaceful election. I must confess that in every polling unit I visited, the security agents were nice to me; I wasn’t seen as a threat, probably because I was a female, I don’t know. Most presiding officers in the polling unit were not bad as well, and they were always ready to answer me with a warm welcome.
I noticed the countenance of two presiding officers that were not welcoming in just two polling units and were (Lakata II, PU:02, ward:09, Oke Adan II, and Ponkuku II, PU: 04, ward:09, Oke Adan II).
At Lakata II, PU:02, ward:09, I walked up to the security agent. After he examined what was on my tag, he took me to the presiding officer, but she responded with, “What are you looking for, what are you observing? Please, I don’t have time,” the security agent was nice to still put up with me to the assistant presiding officer, and she helped me with all the details I needed and permitted me to take whatever pictures I wanted.
At ponkuku II, Pu: 04, ward: 09
I was about to take pictures when the presiding officer noticed and told me I didn’t have a right to take pictures at his polling unit, but it sounded shocking because have been taking pictures from other polling units and I wasn’t told it was wrong of me to take pictures of voters. He yelled at me to leave the polling unit, and I was like, just because of mere pictures. I felt there was more to it; I can not say for sure.
I could tell that all polling unit was involved in vote trading. I witnessed one at ward 09, unit 03, where a man had brought out a huge amount of money from his pocket and showed it to a man who was in white native wear standing opposite him. I saw the gestures and body language made by both men, and at this time, I was recording the scene on my phone. The man summoned three men from the queue; they followed him immediately and formed a circle that you could hardly see what was going on. I noticed one of the men was coming close to me, but I wasn’t sure what for until he stopped in front of me. He said, “Aunty, I saw you last night” I replied, “No sir” he insisted he saw me last night and then he called on his wife to confirm. She confirmed what her husband said and reminded me where we had met. Oh! These were the couples where my partner and I had bought junk from their store a night before the election! “Aunty, I know what we are doing here is not good, and I saw you playing with your phone earlier I know you’ve captured us, but please forgive us,” he pleaded. I was left with no choice but to leave the polling unit.
Ward 02, Pu:01 I saw a man with an APC tag writing the name of a woman who has voted for his party.
Ward 09, Pu:01 I heard the security agent standing beside me asking his colleague if he had collected the money from a man whom I suspected to be a party leader but was not having a means of identification on him. I concluded he was a party leader because the security agent asked him to make more provisions (chairs) for their voters. In some polling units, it’s either the vote-trading was not done publicly or it was so hard for you to capture the moment due to some circumstances during that period.
My partner said, and I quote, “Even our best option, your best option, their best option- will still buy votes. Gone are the days when we do hear cases of the ballot box being snatched at the polling unit. What we see now are party agents persuading voters to vote for their party and enticing them with money.
In the just concluded Osun governorship election, I could tell that the people of Osun were tired and needed a Messiah; when the final result was announced, it felt like a dream come true for the people of Osun as everyone was seen jubilating over the victory of Osun state.
“When PDP was on seat, we used to buy tomato paste for #30, but as of present, it is sold for #150. We are tired,” I heard from a man in the crowd.
Just when I thought the whole election drama had ended, I was at Ibadan on my way back to Lagos when I heard these women asking themselves who they had voted for, and I could hear them speak, “PDP NI MO DI BO FUN OOO” i.e “I voted for PDP OOOO.” One of the women said, “It is a new dawn for the people of Osun State. We have suffered enough.” Permit me to say, the Osun election was PEACEFUL.
In my opinion, I feel the inflation rate is not just happening in Nigeria alone, but the whole world is affected. Nigeria is being affected more.
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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