The cloud was a bit bright on Thursday 14th of July, 2022, when Agbelusi Samuel(Ife Central observer) and I set out from our lodges in Akure to Osun so as to contribute our quota to the development of Democracy in Nigeria. We set out early to beat the 2:00 pm deadline given to all observers by the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development(CJID) Election Coordinator(Ms Bukunmi) for the Osun State Governorship election.
A few minutes after our vehicle zoomed off from the park, the conversations about who would be our president in 2023 kicked off. Just like an argumentative essay (my best essay in secondary school), the other four passengers—excluding us— started analyzing why the Presidential candidate from the Southern and Northern parts of the country should emerge.
As if the National discussion was not enough, they hopped into the concluded Ekiti gubernatorial election(where APC candidate Mr Oyebanji emerged as the winner) and how electorates joyfully sold their votes. In their conversation, they hoped the Osun people would not dance to the beat of votes selling. The conversation didn’t end until we reached our destination — alighted at Oja-Oba in Osogbo, Osun State capital.
It was noon— the sun was scorching when we(Agbelusi Samuel and I) checked into Halatria Hotel and Towers, Osogbo, the meeting point for Observers of the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID) for the Osun State governorship election. Ten minutes after checking my name on the hotel database, luck found me and I checked into my room(107), patiently waiting for my roommate.
I was about to have my nap when I heard a knock at the door. “The door was not locked,” I said why I was trying to cover myself with the duvet because of the cold.
“Good afternoon, my name is Itunu Solace,” he said. “I’m Friday Omosola,” I responded, stressing my hand for a handshake. After hours of gisting and networking, I forgot about my nap before we were called out of our rooms to the hotel hall, where I met, greeted and networked with other colleagues who had also come for the election.
Preparing Ahead Of Saturday
On Friday morning, after I had my breakfast (bread, eggs and hot tea), Mr Ajibola Hamzat of the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) had a short session with us on how to be safe, tips needed, and strategies to record a scene(fight, vote buying and others). During the session, I was quiet and focused, aiming to tap from the wealth of experiences of Mr Hamzat(Editor-in-chief I had wanted to meet), being my first time meeting him in person before we were deployed to our respective local governments.
After LGA deployment was announced, we moved to the Osun State headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to get our kits needed for the observation, but unfortunately, we only got a tag, pen and a jotter.
After getting our observation tag, pen and a jotter from the INEC headquarters in Osogbo, some observers who observed the Ekiti Election were so angry that INEC repeated the same thing(no provision for jacket and cap). They shared light on how they were harassed by security operatives due to a lack of jacket and cap. Some of them said, “sapa don reach INEC side.” On the spot, my mind was telling me, “Friday, you will beg security operatives tired on Saturday.” but a spirit was telling me “nothing would happen.”
After we left the INEC office, we all departed to our various Local Government Areas of Assignment. I was assigned to Ede-North Local Government Area (LGA), LGA of the Governor-Elect, Senator Ademola Adeleke, alongside Folakemi Olaniyan.
The bus that took my partner and me to Ede-North was the same bus that took the Ede-South observers(Sunday Awosoro and Zainab Adewale). On our way, we used google maps to locate the INEC office, Police stations, Churches/Mosques and hospitals as instructed by CJID.
After my partner and I had booked a room at Baba-Kekere hotel and suites in Oke-Gada, we set out to the INEC office to observe the distribution of election materials to different RAC as well as enquired about the collation centre ahead of Saturday. After we observed the distribution process, took pictures and interviewed the Election Officer and some Ad-hoc officials, we took a bike that took us around in order to familiarise ourselves with the area.
After the tour, we were able to secure bike men who were residents of Ede-South local government ahead of Saturday’s long journey of monitoring the opening of polling units, the vote cast, and the counting and collation of results.
The Election Day
The cock crowed for the first and second times, but my tiredness prevented me from waking up until the third time. I Woke up, had my bath, dressed up and put a call through to my bike man. After the first call dropped, he called back and told me he was outside, and I was so happy to embark on the journey after my partner and I had mapped and divided the wards among ourselves. My first target was the polling unit of Senator Ademola Adeleke, ward 02, PU 09, Ede-North LGA.
On getting to the Governor-Elect, PU, I met journalists waiting for him — Senator Ademola Adeleke— to arrive and cast his ballot with all their cameras and microphones set. At exactly 8:45 am, he arrived with his wife in white attire to exercise his franchise. Before he stepped out of his car, I had positioned my cellphone camera to make sure I captured the moment. Luckily, I was able to capture him during the accreditation, voting and interview session. I felt so excited being the observer that reported the Governor-Elect PU.
A few minutes after he left, I zoomed off with my bike man to other wards, and 75% of the wards began their election from 8:33 am to 8:40 am.
The Bimodal Voting & Accreditation System (BVAS)
According to the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC), the Bimodal Voting & Accreditation System (BVAS) would not give the voters any problem, but the prediction failed woefully as the BVAS gave a few polling units issues as it wasn’t accrediting voters with their thumbprint.
The majority of the voters who encountered issues with the BVAS were those above 60 years of age and, according to the INEC ad-hoc staff, they had to restart it every 10 minutes for it to work well, but unfortunately, the BVAS still failed to capture some voters.
The rule of priority voting was observed in every polling unit I visited, as the people with disabilities, visibly pregnant women, nursing or breastfeeding mothers and the elderly were granted priority access to voting at the polling units, as stated by INEC regulations and guidelines for the conduct of election 2022 part II section 25.
The turnout of voters in Ede North local government was very low as the total number of registered voters was 71,749 while the total number of accredited voters was 34,735.
COVID-19 precautions were not strictly adhered to in all the polling units I visited, even though COVID-19 is still very much around. For all the PUs visited, no usage of nose masks and maintenance of social distance by the voters, upon the provision made by INEC for it in its rules and guidelines.
If there was any gathering to adhere to COVID-19, it should be an election where it is always crowded.
The news that broke in the Ekiti Governorship Election was that voters joyfully sold their votes for the sum of N10,000 and N5,000, respectively, but in the just concluded Osun Gubernatorial election, voters sold out their votes secretly for the same amount.
In some polling units I visited, I found out that some party agents secretly wrote the name of voters who voted for them and secretly handed them a sum of #10,000 and #5,000.
Some voters who spoke with this reporter on anonymity revealed that all the party’s agents were involved in the act of vote buying, but APC and PDP money was higher than other parties.
Security Operatives Harassment
Having read the election observation diary titled “Daniel in a Lion Den” by Oluwafemi Jeremiah, who was harassed by DSS officers, my prayer before I set out of my hotel(Baba-Kekere hotel and suites) was not to witness such an experience, even though I want to feel it as a journalist.
Unfortunately, on my way to ward 05, Alusekere, I found out that my prayer was not answered, which reminds me of my father’s advice when we were young “Èdà ó lè sáré kojá káádàrà, which means “What will be will be,” I was stopped by armed policemen despite seeing an observer ticket on the bike and the tag I wore on my neck.
“Go back. There is no road here,” said one of the officers with red eyes. I was shivering, hoping he(the officer) could do something funny.
Twenty minutes after delaying my bike man and me, he released us and asked us not to pass the road again. “I won’t allow you if you take this road again,” he said.
The Collation Centre
My partner and I arrived at the LGA collation centre at exactly 6:00 PM for the announcement of the LGA result and were addressed by the Returning officer, Professor Abayomi Okanlawon of the University Of Lagos, on the rules and regulations that would guide parties, agents and observers throughout the collation.
All ward results had arrived before midnight except ward 05(Alusekere), which arrived a few minutes after twelve. At exactly 12:47, the LGA result was announced and the PDP candidate was declared the winner.
Since my partner and I could go back to our hotel, we decided to spend the night at the collation centre with some INEC ad-hoc officers(Corpers), but we could not sleep due to the noise and we decided to watch the collation exercise at the state level.
At exactly 6:34 AM, we called our bike men to take us back to the hotel and we checked out of the hotel around 7:00 AM. After checking out of the hotel, I followed my partner to Lagos park before I left for Osogbo to return to the CJID, the power bank I collected.
On my way to the Hotel in Osogbo, I saw people jubilating. Shortly after I left the hotel, some youths were seen holding and waving the PDP flag by the roadside while some were busy destroying the APC posters.
Due to the heavy traffic encountered along the road in the name of celebrating “Imole De,” I arrived in Akure around 12:00 PM on Sunday, 17th of July, 2022.
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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