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‘Militarisation, fear of violence causes of apathy’

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Babajide Sanwo-Olu…..PHOTO: Twitter/jidesanwoolu


• Tinubu recommends fewer political parties
The severe voter apathy experienced during last Saturday’s governorship and state houses of Assembly elections in Lagos and other parts of the country have been heavily blamed on militarization of the exercise as well as fear of possible violence.

According to some residents of Lagos Island and Ikoyi, millions of eligible voters had stayed away from casting their ballot because of reports of violence, alleged manipulation, incidents of multiple deaths, among other factors that marred the conduct of the presidential and National Assembly election.

They attributed the problem to incapability of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct a free, fair and credible elections, as well as discontentment on the two leading political parties in the race for the elective positions.

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The Corps members, however, seemed more confident, capable and prepared after experiences gathered from the presidential elections two weeks back. There was also less military presence as compared to the former elections.

While the elections were peaceful and orderly, dysfunctional smart card readers also threatened the exercise. In the polling units visited by The Guardian, voter turnout was less than 30 percent as compared to the registered voters.

At All Progressives Congress (APC) gubernatorial candidate, Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s Lateef Jakande/Femi Okunu polling unit 019, out of the 1,098 registered voters, only 159 accredited voters were able to vote. Here, Sanwo-Olu defeated his closest rival, Jimi Agbaje of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) with 124 against 26 votes.

Also at the polling unit of Senator Remi Tinubu, the wife of the National Leader of APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, polling unit 034, Ward 9, Falomo Police Barracks 4, only 96 voted out of 97 accredited from 840 registered voters.Reacting to why registered voters refused to vote, one of the voters at one of the units, Korede Yakub, said the state elections were not a contest but to fulfill all righteousness, as it was known that APC would win. According to him, it has become difficult for any other party to win elections in Lagos, hence there is no need for the stress of voting.

“No matter what we do in Lagos, it has become almost impossible for anybody to outsmart Tinubu,” he said, “so, why worry to vote knowing it won’t count instead of having your normal weekend rest with your family?”Another voter, Emmanuel Ogah, said people were discouraged because the presidential election results did not reflect the choice of the people.
Ogah expressed lack of trust in the electoral process, noting that the electoral umpire has failed in its promise to deliver a fair and credible election.

“Voters, especially young people, feel betrayed by the electoral commission,” he noted. “They believe that their votes did not count in the elections from February 23, and don’t trust the system enough to come out again.”He also identified that faults in the smart card readers contributed to the low number of voters because some people were too inpatient to wait for its correction.

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To Mrs. Linus Iheanacho, the fear of possible violence was part of factors that was responsible for the severe low turn out.According to her, “Having seen the presidential elections and how violence and deaths were recorded, I couldn’t have risked my life as a result of today’s exercise. I decided to stay at home with my family while monitoring events on television stations.”

Meanwhile, Mrs. Tinubu lamented the participation of too many insignificant parties in the election, saying it makes it is confusing and complicated for most of the illiterate voters, as well as money and time consuming. The third time senator advised the fringe parties to align with bigger parties of similar ideologies and programmes.

“WE can’t see the ballot boxes again,” the young man shouted. “We can’t see the ballot boxes again.”

The thick, dark complexioned tout on tracksuits kept shouting.

When touts took over election in Agbaje’s polling unit

“We can’t see the ballot boxes again,” another young man shouted. “We can’t see the ballot boxes again.”

Restless gathering of thugs hoping to make money took over the whole polling unit.

On the prompting of about five others, who equally stood with same mission, the thick tout, who limps, said in a gruffy voice, “we will not allow journalists to steal the ballot boxes.”

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He shouted loosely, shooting everybody a sharp look. “We can’t see the ballot boxes again.”

Biting down on his lips, he mumbled: “You these journalists, you have taken over out polling unit,” another said in a jocu-serious manner.

A journalist looked at him and shouted, “there is camera in our front, we won’t support any politician to steal the joy of Nigerians.”

The touts voice was very high and was becoming an embarrassment to everybody, even to himself.

That’s, if he really had shame, because after. Some minutes, the six of them were spotted taking their ‘sepeteri’, marijuana and monkey tale.

It seemed like a joke when you look at the atmosphere, but no journalist liked the situation. About 40 of them descended on the polling unit like ‘ants on a rotten meat’ waiting for Agbaje.

The journalists were more than the voters who came in trickles. Like when water was stopping from its flow in the tap, the voters were coming and going, one after the other, but the horde of journalists were waiting to see Agbaje cast his vote.

A woman, Mrs. Emos, who spoke to The Guardian, said, “their shouldn’t have been light. If government wanted people to come out, it should have switched off light.”

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The woman who voted in Agege, added, “There wouldn’t have been peace, if the Presidential election had not favoured President Buhari.”

She said, “Everybody would have been fighting. Why is Nigeria like this? Does President Buhari know all this?”

The woman, who left her abode in Ogun State to vote in Lagos, where she registered, said: “Thank God elections have ended, we can now have peace.”

She continued, “Nobody will look for omo Ibo again as scapegoats.”

Mr. Paul Chukwuma who voted in Okota, said, “We can now have peace. In every election, they target we the Igbo. Don’t we have right again? We decided not to come out, because politicians should not use our businesses to score political points.”

An electorate, who spoke to The Guardian in Apapa, said: “More needs to be done to convince Nigerians to vote. Many Nigerians were not impressed with the outcome of the Presidential election. How many of them came out to jubilate like 2015? That shows you something is wrong.”

The governorship candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Lagos, Mr. Jimi Agbaje, and the Speaker of State Assembly, Hon. Mudashiru Obasa, also faulted the electoral process in the country, saying there is need for immediate change.

Specifically, Agabje bemoaned the situation, where in many places, the card readers malfunctioned, thereby, resulting in disenfranchisement of voters.

While casting his vote at his polling unit, Ward A, unit 004 Apapa, at the weekend, he said it took several attempts before the card reader could identify his finger prints.

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His words: “We are having situation where in some polling units where the card reader is not working they said they cannot vote. Today, fortunately, after several attempts, the card reader identified my finger prints, what I am saying is that, there has to be uniform process, where when the card reader is not working, manual vote should be allowed.”

On his part, the Speaker of Lagos State House of Assembly, Mudashiru Ajayi Obasa, while casting his vote at ward 5, polling unit 19, Agege, decried the high cost of the electoral processes, stressing that such funds could be diverted to other areas to better the lots of the people.

He said: “The process is expensive and the result does not commensurate with the cost. We should look inward and get something that will be totally acceptable to all. This will reduce the cost.

“I have always believed that we need to adopt our own system, something that would work for our country and our people will understand perfectly. Adopting what we see elsewhere will not be very helpful to us. I think we should go back to what we used to do in the past, the MKO way. The pattern was cheaper and clearer.”

Domestic observers monitoring the governorship and state Assembly elections also said the voter apathy recorded in Lagos was the result of skirmishes and insecurity experienced in the February 23 Presidential elections.
 
While speaking with journalists, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin also noted that unavailability of ad-hoc staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) at polling units as at when due was also responsible for the apathy. 
 
According to her, “At Opebi, Moses Olaiya, Alausa among others, there were no trace of election going on as at 10:30am.”
 
She added that this could lead to discouragement on the part of voters.

While also commenting on the non usage of card readers, she said, “ in some units, manual voting was ongoing in some areas.”

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Odumakin continued, “we have been to no less than 35 places this morning. As we speak in Opebi, there is no INEC official or ad-hoc staff except security and party agents. Also at polling Unit 8, Fadeyi, they were voting manually. Also at Ojo, they informed us that the ad hoc staff arrived around 10:10am. The Corps members complained of non payment of their allowances.” 
 
The lady added, “At Moses Olaiya, Ojodu, Alausa, no ad-hoc staff had arrived. Also, at Ojota, there was no sign of any ad hoc staff or INEC officials. The same for Eti-Osa.  
 
“A few people got discouraged, because they didn’t imagine getting there and waiting for more than two hours. But Oshodi and Ketu voting commenced early, as at when due.
 
“Generally in terms of turnout, compared to what we had in the Presidential election, there is voter apathy but our concern is that one of the reasons why especially in Lagos some decided to stay back is because of the security situation. “When touts took over election in Agbaje’s polling unit.

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.

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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.

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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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More smokers, football players than voters on election day
Hardly would you gain anybody’s respect as soon as you say, ‘I live in Oshodi,’ known for its notoriety and as the home of touts. But Oshodi is gradually changing, with new people, new buildings and the presence of security.

Nothing really made the morning of 2019 governorship and state assembly election in Lagos State really special as many shops on the streets were opened for business.

Many chose to stay at home due to the disappointment they experienced on February 23, when ballot boxes were snatched and many agents of the opposition parties were beaten to stupor.

Just like the February poll, many youths were seen playing football on the streets with majority of them above 18. When The Guardian asked why they chose to play football instead of voting, one of them threatened to beat up the reporter.

“Oga commot here now, we wan play ball, go your way,” he said gruffly.

Unfazed, the reporter still asked if the next Jay Jay Okocha or Kanu Nwankwo would come from among the players. The young men said they could play better than Nigeria’s retired soccer stars, with one of them saying, ‘Oga, if you wan sign player, plenty boys dey here!”

There were more young men gathered in every corner in Oshodi than people in polling units. And it was like a festival of Cannabis sativa, known as India hemp or igbo.

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One of soldiers, who spotted these street boys smoking hemp under Oshodi bridge, asked, “Didn’t Fashola cleared these guys off this area? Why do we still have them? What are they doing under the bridge instead of voting?”

The four young men left the spot, crossed to the other side and started hailing the military men on duty, “Ahua Tuale sir. Your boys dey here!”

The soldiers could not help but laugh.

This is not Anambra
Voter apathy might have been seen by some as victory, as Nigerians complain of low turnout of voters, with some actually seeing it as election victory for their candidates.

The Guardian discovered that some youths, at about 12:45, came to polling units after meeting with party agents, emerged with multiple voter cards. After casting the first vote, they waited a few minutes to cast another one.

One of INEC’s ad hoc members, who explained why they allowed one person to vote more than once using different PVCs, said, “I can’t stop them from voting due to fear of attack. Some of them have weapons on them and stopping them could be deadly.”

The two police officers also watched on helplessly.

One of the residents, John Chuka, said, “What happened during the Presidential election got me angry. Honestly, today I didn’t vote because I’ve lost confidence in the electoral system. A situation where one’s vote doesn’t count doesn’t give one any joy. So, you could see what happened the last time where ballot boxes were snatched and a lot of threat. I decided not to vote thereafter. I am not happy not voting but it’s just that even if we vote, it won’t count. Let us look for another thing we could do than wasting our time.

“The issue is not about whether a particular section of the country is threatened. It’s just that the system has given room for that. The issue of voting should be personal. So, allow me to vote for who I want by giving me an improved system of electoral process. Electronic voting should be adopted, where we can bypass party agents who double as vote buyers and ballot box snatcher. Just give me access to vote for whoever I want if they want people like me to vote again.”


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