Yet another observation experience, but this time with an assured rise in self-confidence in my safety. Appalling road conditions, stringent security situations and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) rally masked my stressful journey into the beautiful state of Osun. I had difficulty locating our place of convergence owing to the unfamiliar HALATRIA hotel, recognised as ADEBIMPE by the locals.
On arrival at the hotel, there was a mixup in allocating colleagues as a roommate, and this delayed checking in. That night, we had a briefing on election observation again and the reassurance of our safety by the team. We set out the next day to the INEC office for accreditation after a sumptuous breakfast and a remarkable lecture from Mr Hamzat. At this moment, I discovered I’d be observing a local government alone.
The journey to Ejigbo LGA from Oshogbo went fast and smooth. Its proximity to the state capital and the good roads leading to this town aided this. Locating the INEC Collation centre proved easy because of a higher percentage of INEC ad hoc staff among passengers on the bus I boarded.
After doing a reconnaissance survey of the centre, I headed off to secure accommodation and transportation for the next day. I had to settle for a below-standard hotel for shelter for two days, which was attributable to arriving late at the local government.
ELECTION DAY – VOTE BUYING AND BRIBERY
After a restful night, I took off in the chilly morning with my transporter for my first polling unit. On the way, I could see people on the streets prepared and ready to exercise their franchise. Arriving at my first polling unit, I discovered my identification card had detached itself from the tag and, from experience, this was pivotal in making my work easy. Retracing our journey back to the hotel, I was lucky enough to find it unscratched. The quality of identification tags by INEC for observers, I must admit, has been unremarkable.
Voting and accreditation began late in most of the polling units I was in earlier in the day, even though the electorates were out early. They obeyed the priority voting rules by INEC, but this paved the way for party agents to control the decision of aged voters.
The trading of money for votes by party agents has gone more discreetly compared to my experience in the last two elections I observed. In most polling units, they still noted names and stationed fellow agents at the cubicle to verify if the voters did vote for their party. After verification, they take the electorates to another discreet location to collect their rewards. I observed vote buying openly with cash at just a polling unit.
Bribery of INEC Officials and security officers also cut across as a norm I witnessed in the cause of this observation. At two units, I saw party agents giving calls from a higher member to the officials. I overheard the reassurance of being “settled” later by the party agents and INEC officials.
At 5:05 pm, voting and accreditation were still ongoing in some polling units because of the massive turnout of voters and the late commencement of the election. These spanned the collation of the local government results into midnight. A case of over-voting in Ward 2 also contributed to the delay in the collation of results.
I retired to my hotel after a long, stressful day and chilly night. The zealousness of the Ejigbo indigenes in witnessing a free and fair collation had them waiting in the cold outside the collation centre. They hung on until the last announcement by the local government collation officer. I experienced this for the first time during observation.
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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