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‘There are billions in these ballot boxes’

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PHOTO: Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP

When a group of Igbo men gather for any purpose, most times, the discussion gravitates to money or how to make the best out of a given situation.

The discourse might not actually centre around money at first, but somehow, the talk inevitably moves to finance.

And so it was at a polling booth in Iho, Ikeduru area of Imo State during the last presidential election.

The elections were supposed to bring people to the polling booths to cast their votes for their choice candidates, but for some young men in Iho Ward 0001, it was an opportunity to dream of the millions of naira one could make with the right government connections.

As the electoral officers, who arrived about two hours behind schedule, were unpacking their equipment, one of the young men, who identified himself as Obi, started counting the number of ballot boxes in the ward.

Asked why he was doing that by one of his friends, he said, “ Nna men, this man don hammer. Do you know how much the man who got the contract to supply the ballot boxes has made from the deal?

“Let us calculate it. We have 774 local government areas, which in turn have thousands of polling booths.

“Assuming the man, who got this contract supplied each ballot box at the rate of N1, 000 can you imagine how much he has made?”

Now drawn into the same line of thinking, another of the young men identified as Okechukwu chipped in: “What of the person with the contract to label the boxes? It will be unfair for one man to get the contract to supply the boxes and at the same time label them.

“So, let’s assume that another person got the deal to label the boxes at N500 each, nna that is a lot of money.

“You see why we are here in the sun waiting for INEC, some people have already smiled to the bank.”

Told that it was possible INEC did the contract with its staff, he said, “I can’t believe Mahmood Yakubu (INEC chairman) will be that stingy. Billions of naira were budgeted for this election and he can’t just keep all to himself.”

Owerri, the hotel capital of Nigeria
Owerri can take the toga of the hotel capital of Nigeria. This is because almost all the streets in the Imo State capital city have at least two hotels.
The hotels come in different sizes and purposes, with the Imo Concorde the biggest of them all.

Apart from the hotels, there are nightclubs and sundry entertainment hangouts catering for different clientele. And of course, there are girls of all shapes.

Explaining the preponderance of hotels in Owerri, a journalist based in the Imo State capital, Ori Martins, said, “Owerri has become a tourist centre for most Igbos who are based outside the South East.

“Every weekend, they come from Abuja, Lagos and other cities to spend the time here because of what the town offers.
“You must have also noticed the number of girls in this city. Most of these girls are university students, some of who come to town from neighbouring states to seek fun.

“Apart from the hotels, there are such entertainment centres as Channel O and Mr. Fans Restaurant, which can be regarded as one of the best night clubs in the Southeast.

“The Mbari Ogwa is a beehive of activities, especially during the weekend because the big musicians and comedians in the city are always handy to dish out their stuff.”

He invited The Guardian to visit the city on any weekend to see the city in its glorious best.

‘Thunder fire this election’
While most Nigerians were eagerly waiting for the elections to choose their new leaders, a group of their countrywomen could not wait for the polls to be over.

Reason: the elections and the holidays brought such a lull to their business as most of their customers had left town for their various villages.

They are the prostitutes of the Control area of the city, who throng the area close to Assumpta Cathedral to look for clients.

According to a guide, the ladies of the night had a base near the cathedral, but the Catholic bishop ordered the building to be demolished, hence the women took to hanging around the area in search of clients.

The girls, most of who claim to be students, are angry. One of them, who gave her name as Suzzy, told The Guardian that the elections had spoilt their business.

In her anger she wanted to attack the reporter until she was convinced that he was just doing a job.

“Most of our clients have travelled out of town. We are now left with policemen who don’t want to pay.

“In short, thunder fire this election. Must we all die because of election?’’ she queried as she walked away.


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