Oshodi residents lament disruptions despite president’s warning on ballot box snatching
In the days leading to last Saturday’s presidential and national assembly elections, which held across the country, there was hot air over the statement by President Muhammadu Buhari that anybody who decide to snatch ballot boxes or lead thugs to disrupt the election may have committed his last unlawful action at the expense of his life as security agents have been ordered to shoot such interrupters on sight.
But on D-day last Saturday, it was a free reign for ballot box snatchers in some parts of Lagos State, such as Okota, Ajao Estate, Aguda, Itire and Oshodi.
While the disruptions in the aforementioned areas were brazen in broad daylight, Oshodi and Mafoluku witnessed a more subtle method of ballot box snatching, intimidation and voter disfranchisement.
The Guardian gathered that thugs in white Toyota Sienna cars paraded the areas at the commencement of collation in the polling units in the area.
The thugs, who placed themselves in strategic locations, began patrolling polling units to witness the outcome of the election at about 4:00p.m. when counting was taking place.
Whenever they arrive at a voting centre, they inquire on who is leading, and if told the ruling party was losing, they without warning, approach the centre, point guns at the electoral officials and cart away the ballot boxes.
While the election was ongoing, The Guardian went round the area observing the conduct of the election. Some men in a window-tinted vehicle with the INEC On Duty sticker were seen also patrolling unhindered.
Eyewitnesses said the hoodlums forcefully dispersed voters, INEC officials and security operatives with weapons.
A man whose name was not made available who was in a bus convening election materials to INEC office was waylaid and the officials ordered to step down before the ballot sheets were carted away.
At Eniola Adesanya Street, at about 3:00p.m. after majority of voters had exercised their franchise in the scorching sun, hoodlums on motorcycles descended on the unit and went away with the ballot boxes.
An eyewitness said: “The voting was almost over while some of us were still on the queue to cast our vote. We heard PDP was leading in polling unit nearest to us. I am not sure if that was what led them to snatch our ballot box.”
In another polling unit at Furniture bus stop, the hoodlums stormed the centre, asked a few questions from the officers before putting the already casted ballots in a “Ghana Must Go bag”.
An eyewitness revealed: “They came in groups fierce looking. They asked who was leading and someone who I believed to be the party agent of the All Progressive Congress (APC) replied them, and said PDP. They asked everyone to shut up as they turned the ballots in to a Ghana Must go bag and left.
Speaking on the election, member of the Lagos State House of Assembly representing Oshodi-Isolo Constituency 1, Hakeem Olusola Sokunle, who spoke on the violence, said: “I was told but I don’t know why they didn’t inform us on time because it would have been the best opportunity to call on the task force to get the perpetrators arrested.”
But the chairman of the People Democratic Party (PDP) in Oshodi/Isolo Local Government Area, Sunday Olaifa, has condemned the violence recorded in Saturday’s elections in the area. In a petition he addressed to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday, he lamented the glaring violence, manipulation and thuggery, which occurred in the presence of security agents.
Olaifa further listed masterminds of the violence and demanded cancellation of elections in the worst hit areas.
According to him, “the hoodlums led by leaders of National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) like Musiliu Akinsanya, a.k.a M.C Oluomo, Jamiu Adedumoye, a.k.a Desokan, Ijebeta, Kadiri Jamba, Olojo, Ahmed Killer, Sikiri Salawu a.k.a. Youngest, Sunday Oseni a.k.a Stainless, and Ganiu a.k.a Koko Zaria, took over the conduct of the election at the polling units with arms and ammunition, machetes, and charms, in the presence of the security agents without making efforts to arrest the culprits.”
Meanwhile, a suspected member of the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) popularly named Demola, who was allegedly mobbed by irate voters in Ago Palace Way, Okota area of Lagos, for allegedly disrupting voting during last Saturday’s election has been confirmed to be alive.
After a video showing Demola being hurled with stones went viral last Saturday, there were reports that he didn’t survive the ordeal and residents in the area feared reprisal attacks. But in a recent clip seen yesterday, he was observed lying on a bed with blood-soaked bandage covering his head while receiving treatment after being rushed to the hospital by some sympathetic residents.
While the election was on, Demola was beaten and stoned by some voters after he was seen among thugs who invaded polling units in the Ago Palace way, allegedly snatching many ballot boxes and burning the votes already cast. Witnesses who saw the beating said that the voters were irked when they saw him among a team of thugs going to different polling units, snatching ballot boxes and burning ballot papers.
But in a swift reaction, the leadership of the OPC has denied that Demola is a member of the organisation. Publicity Secretary of the OPC, Yinka Oguntimehin, said the man was not a member of the Aare Gani Adams – led members of the OPC.
Oguntimehin said: “The report at our disposal indicates that a member of the late Faseun’s group was beaten by an irate mob, following an attempt by some thugs to disrupt election process at the Okota area of Lagos state.
“I need to say it clearly that Ademola is not a member of our group. Ours is a group of professionals, and well-educated members. We have our structure across the country, and everybody can attest to the fact that the Aare Gani Adams-led members of the OPC are not vagabonds or thugs.”