Low voter turnout amidst heavy security
Against all expectations, the governorship and House of Assembly elections in Surulere and its environs on Saturday were peaceful and hitch-free. Officials of INEC arrived quite early with election materials and set up polling units in earnest. Residents also came out to cast their ballot in the various polling units.
However, there was heavy presence of security personnel in some of the major streets of Surulere. But this was particularly so at Aguda area where there was election violence during the presidential and National Assembly elections two weeks ago. Stern-looking and armed military and police personnel manned many roadblocks from Ijesha market into Aguda, Akerele Road, and Adeniran Ogunsanya Street.
Surulere was not spared of voter apathy, as a few voters came to cast their ballot. Residents who spoke to The Guardian cited the violence in parts of the area in the last election and the result of the last election as reason for staying away from the polls. Majority of them were not convinced the results INEC posted for the presidential was a true reflection of the votes cast, arguing that the process was rigged. They said just as their vote did not count back then, they said, what was the guarantee that it would count this time around.
A woman, Mrs. Fumilayo Lawson, sandwiched between Poll Units 020 and 021 – Oseni/Fasanya junction, Itire, Lawanson, who had her shop partially opened for business and two polling units to the left and right of her shop, expressed bitterness that the will of Nigerian voters was not being allowed to stand. She expressed dismay that Nigeria was struggling to conduct election properly after over 58 years as an independent country.The two units close to her had scanty presence of voters. As at 11.11am, only 30 voters had cast their ballot out of 344 registered voters.
Both agents of APC and PDP corroborated Mrs. Lawson’s position, noting that during the last election the voter turnout was much higher than last Saturday’s. They said this was in spite of having sent canvassers round the neighbourhood to remind residents it was voting day.
Rasak Oseni, the son of the late bale, is APC agent for polling unit 020 while Ikechukwu Michael was for PDP and Mrs. Fatima Shodunke was for Accord Party. They were in agreement that the voter turnout was far below what happened during the last election. There was comradeship relationship among the three, with the two differing to the baale’s son. Rasak confirmed voter apathy, but was vague as to why it was so.
However, at Akerele Extensions 1 and 2, the situation was quite different, as the polling units experienced large voter turnout. Residents in the area were heavily mobilized for the election. The polling units in Ward F3 – 025, 026, 019, 033, 025, and 027 had massive voter turnout. It is also home to the late Shitta-Bey brothers, Sikiru and Rasheed, all APC chieftains.
At the back of Folawiyo Mosque, Akerele Extension 2, a giant pan filled with puff-puff balls being fried was on the fire rolling off the delicacy on trays for voters. Five drums filled with chilling bottled water also awaited anyone who casts his or her ballot. Women and men rang handheld bells calling out to voters in the Jakande-like graying 3-storey buildings to come out and vote.
For most of the voters in this area, the election was a celebration. Beer parlours in the neighbourhood already had costumers as early as 10am. There was ceaseless flow from polling booths to beer parlours and vice versa.When the results of Ward 13, polling unit 027 inside Shitta Primary School, was read out it was clear APC had won with landslide, polling 381, with PDP coming a distant second with 60 votes. AD had 10 votes while ADP had 2.
But Valentine Nnamdi Olisah, whose parents hailed from Rivers State, but who was born and brought in Akerele, said the voter apathy was as a result of political leaders tricking the electorate for too long. He had worked for a former LGA boss in the area and versed in the local politics.
“The turnout is poor,” he said. “Politicians have not kept their promises. In 2015 voter turnout was massive. I foresee what happened to Senate President Bukola Saraki in Kwara State will happen in next election – o to ge. Many Igbo residents didn’t come out to vote because the foolery is too much. APC needs to buckle up otherwise people will say ‘enough is enough. Politicians here are selfish and they use and dump the electorate.”
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