Osun 2022: Voter Education and Campaign Blighted by Vote Merchandising and Thuggery

Yiaga Africa’s Watching The Vote Third Osun Pre-Election Observation (PREO) Report

The July 16th Osun State Governorship election is coming on the heels of the just-concluded Ekiti governorship election, which poll watchers and other election stakeholders have judged as an improvement from the November 2021 Anambra governorship election and the February 2022  FCT local council elections. The governorship election is the last off-cycle election to be held before the 2023 general elections. It is considered a decisive election that may shape the narratives and can set the tone for the conduct of the 2023 general elections. The attention of stakeholders has shifted to the final preparation for the Osun state election in what promises to be a fiercely contested election. This election presents another opportunity for all stakeholders to raise the bar for not just a credible and peaceful process but an election with optimum legitimacy.

The elections will be contested by 15 political parties that have fulfilled all the criteria of participation as set by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). This was preceded by intra-party infractions which led to an array of defections from one political party to another ahead of the election. According to INEC, a total of 1,955,657 voters are registered to vote in the election as of the time Continuous Voters Registration was suspended in the state. In addition, over three hundred thousand (333,179) new Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) have been printed so far, and these are being distributed ahead of the election day. While the PVC collection is still ongoing, we expect INEC to consistently provide information on the rate of collection for transparency.

However, as observed in this reporting period, the Osun Governorship Election is also shaping up to be blighted by vote merchandising despite consistent voter education by the election management body and Civil society organizations. The role of voter inducement has continued to influence electoral outcomes and delegitimize citizens’ mandates in the electoral process. Thus, the direct legal and governance consequences of vote-trading must explicitly remain at the front-burner of electoral discussions going into the July 16, 2022 poll leading into the 2023 general elections.

In addition, this pre-election observation period still reveals activities of hoodlums and cultists in the state with the recent critical incident being the disruption of PVC collection in Ilesa Local Government Area of the state. Reports of activities of cultists and hoodlums are gradually becoming a recurrence in the Osun pre-election environment ahead of the election.

This edition of Yiaga Africa’s Pre-Election Observation (PREO) report captures the activities of the key election stakeholders: INEC, Political parties, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), and the National Orientation Agency (NOA), as well as indicators of electoral violence. It contains key findings of the third observation period (between May 26 and June 16, 2022)

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#WatchingTheVote is a citizen led election observation initiative aimed at enhancing the integrity of elections in Nigeria using technological tools like sms and evidence-based research methodology tools for election observation.

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