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Reporter’s note on #OsunDecides

CAMPUS REPORTER’s Yusuf Akinpelu was in Ayedaade Local Government Area of Osun State during the just concluded governorship election in the state. He made a note of his observations. Enjoy, please.

Economic activities on the low

We — myself and my teammate — lodged in a hotel in Gbongan, Ayedaade LGA headquarters on Friday. Getting there, one of the quick sights that we were welcomed with was the popular “child cyclists”. I particularly took interest in this.

Children of ages 11–15 rode bikes — some for commercial gains and some as apprentices in mechanic workshops. Out of curiosity, I asked an elderly cyclist, Abass Oyeleke, the reason this is so and his revelations were shocking.

“They are doing it to make ends meet,” he revealed, adding that, “we don’t have any tertiary institution here. What our people depend on are motorcycle and farming.”

Mr Abass graduated from Ire Polytechnic, Osun state, and served in Abia state. Though he rides a motorcycle for a living, his education reflects in his spoken English and understanding of his environment.

“When there are little economic opportunities for people they have no choice than to make ends meet with what is available…even as children,” he explained with a mixture of hope and disdain.

These were people, young and adult, who yelled upon sighting a helicopter. These same people — some poverty-stricken and some with no trace of education and some both — who acted as political party agents at polling units. My heart cringed each time I saw them, seeing what the political class has done to the masses made me livid.

For that, one wouldn’t really blame such people when they jump at a few thousand for their thumb on the ballot. In Gbongan, votes were bought.

Digging deep to film vote buying

Being an observer at Ekiti state election was an experience I hold in high esteem for two reasons. One, for the first time in my ongoing fertilization as a journalist, I experienced how renowned journalists work. Working with Kemi Busari was an august gift for me in the July election. He got me published on Premium Times for the first time — a race I have run for long.

Two, I was able to know how inquisitive a reporter I could be. Filming and reporting scenes of vote buying was a personal record that had since then struck out any doubt in me that journalism isn’t my calling.

So, coming to Osun was, for me, another shot at proving my mettle. The very moment I was paired with Adebisi Korede, a final year student of Mass Communication from Lagos State University – a pairing I initially didn’t like but later proved a glorious one for me – I knew what I wanted to achieve from my team lead role to Ayedaade local government area of the state.

Though uncovering events shrouded in secrecy could be daunting. Everywhere we went I was always on the lookout for strange events — a key emphasis I held onto during our training sessions. Luckily for me (and I should say, as a result of persistence and the inquisitive reporter adrenaline rushing out of my sweaty pores) I finally spotted one.

The setting was in Ward 2, Polling Unit 1 & 2 of the LGA situated in St Peter’s Anglican Elementary School, Oke–Apata, Gbongan.

Unlike Ekiti, vote buying was not done within polling units in Osun. In this particular PU, votes were bought in a mud house a few meters behind the school.

Being a strange face, loitering around the area could spur suspicion and spell trouble for me. Again, as in Ekiti, Kemi Busari came to the rescue.

“Pull off your observer apron. Go there and see what you can get,” he directed. It worked. But I had to do more.

For nearly an hour I had to lobby with the locals. I drew water from a well for a woman in her fifties who wanted to grind maize to make ogi (pap). I helped an elderly woman, presumably the eldest in the mud house, to pack her palm frond into a sack.

Being an ailurophile, I gave the household’s cat, Petty, a portion of my Viju Milk. I caressed its body and even fed it. That was the bait.

I did this in a squatting position, just behind the spot money was shared, and while I did it, I filmed.

I guess that’s too much an old trick. But for me, it’s been what has lightened up my spirit till date. It is an experience I hold dare. Moving forward I believe it’s another personal record and I can’t wait to do more.

Post voting drama

The controversial election result of Ayedaade LGA is another indication that our stride to maturity as a nation is still a far cry.

As expected, my (or by extension our) integrity was tested. The result my team sent in was different from the one announced at INEC collation headquarters in Oshogbo. But then when I read that the clarity I gave featured in a story by Samuel Ogundipe of Premium Times, my self-belief grew stronger.

In all, my election observation odyssey certainly, currently, has few pages of my memoir I’d write sometime in future. Were I to write it sooner than I expected, the few pages could extend to a full chapter. But before then, I can say: after two election observation experiences, I observe, therefore I am.

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