Members of The Development Initiative, TDI were duly accredited in partnership with the Transition Monitoring Group of Nigeria, TMG, and hence observed the elections in Ondo State, which held on Saturday, 10 October, 2020.
A statement signed by Segun Jegede, Chairperson and Juliana Iregbu, secretary said TDI observers were strategically deployed across the State, especially to the pre-identified flashpoints in the State based on a pre-election assessment. This statement on the election is therefore based on verified reports from our field observers. The primary objective of our Observation Mission was to help promote free, fair, peaceful, credible, and legitimate elections in Ondo State.
Our findings would address the following areas: Accreditation and Voting Processes, INEC Preparedness, Violence/Security, Electoral manipulations/vote buying and Voters turnout
In terms of accreditation and voting processes, in over 90% of the polling Centres where TDI observed the accreditation and voting processes, the exercises commenced before 9am in the morning, which was quite commendable. INEC officials also arrived promptly in most of the polling centres, except a few isolated cases of delayed arrival of materials and officials which affected the timely commencement of the voting processes.
Many of the polling officials had to tackle the challenge of officiating the elections under the elements as no shield or canopy was provided for the exercise, there was also no arrangement for seats and tables for the INEC Officials.
It was assumed that party officials or even voters would attend to these needs, they actually did in many instances, but there were isolated cases where the accreditation and voting exercises were delayed because of lack of chairs and tables or shield from the rain. In many other polling stations, the INEC officials improvised by either setting up the voting points under trees or in front of nearby houses that offered some form of shield. In a few places, friendly voters or party officials provided canopies, chairs and tables for the exercise.
In terms of electoral equipment, INEC made notable improvements with the Ondo elections, as there were fewer reports of malfunctioning of card readers. The voting booth that provides privacy for voters was available in all the voting point visited. Most of the INEC Staff were professional in their facilitation of the processes which was also very commendable.
The election was majorly peaceful, except for a few isolated cases of violence. At least two security personnel were present in each polling unit across the State. According to the reports, armed thugs attempted to disrupt the process in some polling units around Akure South and North, fortunately, more security officials were quickly deployed to the affected areas and the situation was quickly brought under control with voters returning to the queue as if nothing happened. Of the incidents of harassment reported during accreditation, party agents or other people were responsible for such incidents, with virtually none attributed to security agents.
It was alleged that all the political parties competing in the elections were involved in vote buying and were offering between N1,000 and N5,000 for votes, however, no evidence was presented by any observer or voter to buttress this claim. Except for the few cases of violence reported earlier, there were no reports of open intimidation or bullying of voters in the elections. There were also no report of election day campaigns or political party logos or materials openly displayed at voting areas.
Part of the challenge that confronted the electoral officers is non compliance with Covid 19 rules, as 90%of the voters refused to use face masks. However all the electoral officials complied with the use of face masks as well as provision of sanitizers.
The total number of registered voters in the state was 1,812,634 while 595,213 voters were accredited. Total number of votes cast was 591,193, while number of valid votes was 572,745. Rejected votes were 18,448. Total Voters Turnout based on the number of accredited voters was therefore 32.6% which is a considerable reduction compared to the 35% voters turnout recorded in the 2016 Ondo Governorship Elections.
The winner of the elections, who is the incumbent, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of the APC garnered 292,830 votes, representing 51.1% of the total votes cast. The First runner up, Eyitayo Jegede of the PDP got 195,791votes, representing 34.2% of the total Votes cast, while Agboola Ajayi of the ZLP had 69,127 Votes which was 12.1% of the total votes cast.
Conclusion and Recommendations
TDI therefore concludes that Nigeria’s Democracy has taken a giant stride, especially with the just concluded Ondo State Governorship Elections.
TDI finds generally that the process provided most of the people of Ondo State with a meaningful opportunity to exercise their right to vote and that the official results as announced by INEC accurately reflect the ballots cast at polling units.
TDI therefore wishes to congratulate the citizens of Ondo State for their peaceful and substantial participation in the election. TDI also wishes to recognize the largely effective conduct and administration of the election by INEC. TDI also observed that the adequate security presence was of tremendous help in maintaining the peaceful environment.
TDI implores INEC to improve on the identified challenges in future elections, especially in the area of voters education and in enhancing logistics provisions for polling units.
TDI will also want to charge all the stakeholders, including political parties, INEC, the Media and Civil Society, to play their roles more effectively, especially in providing effective voters education for electorates,
The Developmental Initiative is a Coalition of forward-minded civil society platforms that are concerned about the socio-economic development of Nigeria and its many challenges.