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Voter apathy mars Lagos, Ogun polls

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Voters waiting to cast their votes at the OLG Nursery and Primary School Polling Unit, Obantoko, Abeokuta, Ogun State… yesterday<br />PHOTO: GBENGA AKINFENWA

The electorate’s disenchantment with governance at the local government level found expression in the voter apathy recorded in yesterday’s local council polls in Lagos and Ogun states.

Indeed, despite the efforts of the Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC) to ensure that election materials and personnel got to the various wards early, Lagosians stayed away, and polling booths were largely empty in many of the locations visited by The Guardian.

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For instance, at about 11:15 a.m., the Ladipo Odo Ward B2, Unit 055, was empty, and the LASIEC official there, Mrs. Olusile confirmed that things were panning out slowly.

“We have been here since morning and nobody came to vote. We are still praying that people would come out,” she said.

At Kolawole Shonibare/Kolex PU007, Joseph Udechukwu told The Guardian, the turnout was not encouraging, adding that it was difficult convincing people to come out and cast their vote.

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“Even those that managed to come just looked away. The apathy is a combination of so many factors — the state of the nation (insecurity and the economy), the attitude of the ruling party, and other issues. Many said they couldn’t vote without being given a token. So it’s difficult convincing them with ordinary words,” he said.

However, at Units 053, 054 situated inside Oduduwa Junior/Senior Secondary School, Mushin, voters turned out in a very encouraging manner.

An official who spoke there described the situation as very calm, saying, “there was the appreciable turnout.”

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Also, at Ward 10, Unit 006, Megbon (Isolo Road) Primary School, Mushin, the LASIEC official, Mrs. Tenami Zanu, said people who turned out were not many.

“One can just say that about 30 per cent of the population in this axis came out to vote and we can describe the turnout as very low.

“We resumed work at about 7:45 a.m. and the time now is about 1:10 p.m. and have seen only 29 voters.”

She, however, expressed hope that the turnout would improve before the close of the election.

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Visitation to Ward 8, Unit 017, Small London, Block 44, Alhaji Masha Road, Surulere, showed that the turnout was massive.

Voting at Ward G2, Unit 016, Lagos Progressive Junior/Senior Secondary School, Surulere, also went on well.

At Ward E, Unit 023, Okota, a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) agent, Prince Ifeanyi Ukaibe, said everything went well. “People came out to vote and there was no issue at all. It was not considered a do or die affair,” he said.

When The Guardian visited PU009 Oroki along Isuti Road, PU006 Moshalashi/Abioye junction, PU011 Imuto II opposite Egan Market, PU010 Imuto I on Akesan Road, PU013 opposite Osumba compound, Ejo bus stop along Igando-Ikotun road, PU008 located inside Local Government Primary School Egan, and PU003 Ara Junction, all in Igando LCDA, accreditation and voting went on simultaneously as at 9:30 a.m.

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The Chairman of Aiyedade Community Development Association (CDA), Comrade Amos Adeniyi, a.k.a A-Square, described the exercise as peaceful.

He said: “The only issue is that people are not coming out to vote. I don’t know if they are tired or it is as a result of the economic situation in the country.”

However, Ajiri Harry, a party agent, said he was shocked to notice this poor turnout.

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According to him, shunning the election is a license for bad leadership and clear approval that the leaders should continue to do what they want.

He alleged that voters had shown little interest in the election because they were not expecting appreciation from either political parties or candidates for “vote-buying.”

For Alhaja Basiratu Awosanya, the apathy is a result of what is happening in the country, where the leaders do not listen to the people; the leaders say one thing and do the opposite.

“Even, when we vote, the votes do not count, as the sitting government will still go back to manipulate the figures in favour of those they want to win the election,” she said.

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Francis Asuquo observed that this lethargy is a warning to other state governments and also the Federal Government that power belongs to the people and they can afford to use it the way they like.

DESCRIBING the exercise also as peaceful, Mr. Fatai Jinadu, a voter at PU072, Coker/Lafenwa Junction, Ejigbo, said apathy showed by the electorate is not the solution to the country’s political challenges. Rather, people should come out and choose who they want as their leader with their vote.

Also, an All Progressives Congress (APC) agent, Blessing Onyeije, said they commenced voting at 8:30 a.m. and everything was peaceful.

At Ward 09, Unit 018B, Junction of Ohafia, Okota, the official at the Unit, Deborah Oyelowo lamented the low turnout and commented that people were not many.

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The LASIEC official, Esuga James, who said his team had visited about five polling booths, described voting everywhere as very peaceful and calm, adding, “it is encouraging.”

Mrs Justina Onunwa, the PDP agent at the polling unit commended the peaceful conduct of the electorate. She explained that the apathy seen at the polling unit is due to a lack of interest on the part of the electorate.

She said: “Even we those we try to canvass told us that there is no point wasting time and energy as the end result of the election is already known. They said everything at the end of the day would end in the usual way. They are sort of fed with the ruling party must win at all cost syndrome.”

At Ajeromi- Ifelodun, a leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mukandas Ajobi said voter apathy would not stop LASIEC from declaring results at the end of the exercise.

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His words: “You can see that nobody is intimidating anyone from voting. People just refused to come out. I think the people just believed that there is no need to vote as only APC is on ground.

“There is no opposition in Lagos as far as we are concerned. The truth is, whether they come out or not, the results will be declared by LASIEC. Even if only three people voted, a winner will emerge,” he added.

Meanwhile, there was a report of ballot box snatching in Shogunle area of Oshodi. The Guardian observed some level of understanding between the APC and PDP, especially in Ward D3, Mafoluku, where what was seen could be described as “scratch my back and I scratch your back.”

SPEAKING with The Guardian on the low turnout of voters, a councillorship candidate of the Youth Party (YP) in Ajao Estate, Ward G, Isolo LCDA, Okikiola Taiwo Jalupon, said: “The low turnout is because people are tired of how the country is being run.”

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She said: “We must show the people that we are practising democracy and not dictatorship so, they should be made to understand that if they don’t keep trying, we are not going to get anywhere because if they people don’t come out to vote for the right candidate, it’s the same people that will be there and that will lead to more failure so.”

Olumide Bello who was seen playing football on the road said: “We are playing football because we are angry, there is nothing done to better the community. We have advocated for youth empowerment and improve the security in Lawanson but no government official deems it right to help us.

Also speaking with The Guardian in Itire, Adejoke Adeleke said: “The last time I voted was June 12, 1993. They already have whom they want and not the person we want so, I don’t need to waste my time voting. Here in Itire, there is no security as we are threatened by hoodlums every time and the police never bother to come to our rescue, they ask us to arrest the hoodlums. I was beaten by hoodlums last week and the miscreants also snatched phones from residents and passersby, they go to ATMs to rob and nothing has been done to stop them, so, why voting when there is no dividend? Here, we have Chairman and Councilors and they only care about themselves.”

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THOUGH the residents fully complied with Ogun State with the restriction order announced by the electoral umpire, Ogun State Independent Electoral Commission (OGSIEC), the majority of them intentionally shunned the polling units. Most of the polling booths across the three senatorial districts were deserted, just as many were busy with other activities.
 
The extension of the voting deadline from 2:00 pm earlier issued by OGSIEC to 3:00 pm was a confirmation of this, to give room for the electorate to exercise their franchise, despite the denial by the OGSIEC chairman, Babatunde Osibodu, that the turnout was massive.
 
In some of the polling units visited, the election was peaceful. Voters were seen applying sanitisers on their hands and coming out one after another before casting their ballot, the majority put on their facemasks while others that had voted loitered; discussing in groups waiting for the outcome of their votes.

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The Unit visited included, Ifo Local Government Area of Ogun State which, covers Isheri Ward 5 comprising polling units 11, 12, 13, and 14, Polling Unit 008A, Ojodu Berger, and Unit 39, along Kosoko Road, Ojodu Berger, Lagos.
  
The Presiding Officer at Unit 11, Isheri Ward 5, Eniola Ashiru, told The Guardian that voting started at 9:00 am stressing that about 80 percent of the people in the area turned up to cast their vote as at past noon.

She said, “We still have some voting papers to sign and stamp and still hoping that more voters would come around but the turnout has been impressive.”

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A voter, Olumide Lawal, who spoke after casting his vote, said the election was generally peaceful with adequate security provided by the Nigerian Police, Ogun State Command.

“Turnout has been very impressive despite the economic challenges people are facing in the country,” he said.
 
Interestingly, the election further exposed the division within the party as the immediate past Governor, Ibikunle Amosun, who is the sitting Senator representing Ogun Central and his followers shunned the poll. A chieftain of the party, Aremo Olusegun Osoba was also absent, likewise the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo. It was further learned that the two other Senators representing Ogun West and East were conspicuously absent during the poll.
   
At exactly 11:45 am, the state Governor, Dapo Abiodun cast his vote in his Polling Unit 2, Ward 3, Ita Osanyin, Iperu-Remo in Ikenne local council, where he adjudged the poll “From the report, I have heard and what I have seen, the turnout is okay and everything is going on peacefully. There is no violence as people are exercising their civic responsibility of choosing the candidate of choice. On a personal note, coming back here brings back a lot of nostalgia. The last time I came to vote like this was when I was being voted into office.
 

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“This administration is doing this particular process as a kind of referendum on acceptability and performance of this government and coincidentally this happens to be our first term in office. I believe that the difference between this election and the previous one is that then I was just a candidate of the party, a candidate full of promises and hope. Now, after two years in office, I have ensured that most of the promises I made have been fulfilled. So, I believe this presents a different twist to the election,” he said.         
 
Just as promised, the security agencies lived up to expectations throughout the period of the poll. It was a combination of the Army, the Nigeria Police Force, Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC), and the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), among others.
 
While fielding questions from journalists at Ward 11, Polling Unit 19, Sodeke, Isale Ijeun, the OGSIEC boss said the poll is peaceful, saying the exercise witnessed a large turnout of voters. “The turnout for the election is quite encouraging.”

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MEANWHILE, the Ogun State Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun, has said that his administration will continue to respect the autonomy of the local government councils and ensure that they are given the necessary support to carry out their constitutional responsibilities as the third tier of government.

Prince Abiodun, who spoke after casting his vote at Ward 3, Iperu 1, Unit 002, Ita Osanyin, Iperu, Ikenne Council, acknowledged local government as the closest to the grassroots.

“What currently obtained in the state is that the local governments are independent because we give them free hand to operate.

“We will respect the autonomy of the local government. They are the third tier of government – much closer to the people than the federal and state. Our administration will give all the necessary support to them to ensure that they carry out their constitutional responsibilities in line with the resolutions of the Nigerian Governors Forum,” he noted.

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The governor who arrived at the polling booth at 11:43 am and voted two minutes later, described the local government election as peaceful, as reports available to him indicated no disturbances or violence in any parts of the state.

“Everything is going on well. The election is peaceful, with no disruption, no violence. People are going about their civil duties responsibly,” he said.

On the supposed boycott of the election by some political parties, the governor denied knowledge of any boycott, saying the State electoral body (OGSIEC) has done the needful by recognising the legitimate faction of the factionalised party.

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He described it as a face-saving device for the group that lost out in the power game.

“What I was made to understand was that the party that was not recognised headed to the court and the case wasn’t bought up until Thursday and from what I understand, the court dismissed the suit that was challenging the OGSIEC accepting the other faction. Following that, I think perhaps to safe face, the faction that lost out now decided to call for a boycott.

“You cannot be boycotting an election that you are not a participant in, I really don’t understand that, but really, I am not a lawyer, I am not OGSIEC, I am not speaking on behalf of any party, I can only speak on behalf of my party and my administration,” Abiodun stressed.

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The governor lauded the electoral umpire for being transparent and for providing a level playing ground for all political parties in the election, calling on those who would be victorious to be magnanimous and embrace those who might lose out in the election.”

“I believe OGSIEC has done everything within their power, their mandate to be very transparent and to ensure that the playing field is as level as it should be for every single party that expressed a desire to be part of this election.”

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