My name is Adesida Eunice an observer for the Ondo State 2020 Gubernatorial Election and the team lead for the Ilaje Local Government Area of the State. The Ondo Election happened to be my first election observation experience which serve as an eye-opener to me.
The process is one which I believe would be a cognizant one, following my adventure as a citizen of Nigeria and also as an observer.
My profound gratitude goes to God almighty, who made the entire process worthwhile, my appreciation goes to Premium Times Center for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ) and YIAGA African Initiative for the opportunity given me to participate, explore, witness and serve as an observer for the October 10, Ondo Governorship Election.
My pre-election observation process were occupied with interesting experience. My team and I arrived the Independent National Electoral Office (INEC) office Located at Igbokoda area of Ilaje at 2pm. On getting to the INEC office, I observed that materials to be distributed to each wards and Polling units were arranged and ready to be distributed, as corp members, security operatives were fully ready to accompany vehicles to convey the Election materials.
The entire environment was in tranquil as At 6:30 pm, the INEC Office was already deserted as the vehicles conveying Electoral materials were on their way to their various wards, where it will be arranged and distributed for the following morning. At 7pm, INEC staffs, corp members, security personnels and Election materials arrived at Holy Trinity primary school, Igbokoda, which is the Registration Area Center for the MAHIN ward III.
As the process may seem smooth, report reached us that boats transporting staffs and materials to some riverine part of the area Capsized on its way, as the team were rescued and no casuality was recorded. Surprisingly, an Election Monitor confirmed that the materials untempered and were in good conditions.
Covid 19 guidelines, Electorate involvement, conducts of security operatives and political party Agents:
The following morning, being the long awaited day, Electoral staffs, corp members were conveyed to their various PUs as they were guarded by security personnel. There was a tremendous turn out as against fears and rumours of violence which occurred among the major parties of the state during their campaigns which was far from peaceful.
It is of uppermost disappointment as the Electorates violated and ignored the Covid 19 guidelines given by INEC. The safety protocols were immersely ignored in which only few adhered by making use of their Nose masks, despite sensitization and warnings by the Media and INEC.
The Ondo Election could be described as free, but cannot be called fair at every point in time. This is as a result of the large buying and selling of votes by the parties Alongside the Electorates.
The activity was seen as a normal as this can be ascribed to the decadence and the poverty striken state of the society, where the rights of the people can be bought and sold. Some voters described it as their right, as against the true definition of a democratic society.
Despite the fines and punishment to be meted on persons, parties and groups found wanting of such atrocities, people ignored the warnings. The process was thereby seen as a fight of the fittest ( one with the greatest tip). Also, to my amazement, a number of voters demanded tips from me, claiming to be working for the government.
In addition, the entire process revealed that voters can be induced and incided to neglect their rights to votes as a number of them see the tips given them as a solution to their little problem at the moment, which can only be solved at times like that.
In conclusion, I recommend that INEC should look frankly into the Election trading activities and also the media have a huge role in exposing such I’ll, educating the Electorates of their rights, actions and consequences of engaging in such activities and also condemning such practices.
Political parties should amend and work towards allowing and adopting fairness, by discouraging acts worth tarnishing their parties image.
INEC should sanction people, parties, and Groups who engage in inducement. Voters should also be educated on their rights and be made to believe that their vote is their right and shouldn’t be taken away from them.