The Presidential and National Assembly elections held in Lagos on Saturday have come and gone but not without concerns that politicians have stuck to their old ways. In this report GEORGE OKOJIE examines the lessons thrown up for political machinery, residents and electoral commission in future polls.
From the outset of democratic dispensation in Nigeria, whenever political thugs sneeze, the electorate catches cold because of the mayhem they wreak when they come around to carry out their nefarious acts in polling centres.
But the Lagos electorate who had no incline of what was in the offing for them were emboldened to come out en-masse on Saturday to exercise their civic rights based on the assurance given by President Muhammadu Buhari, and security agencies that their safety is guaranteed.
The surprising scenario played out when the voters that came out in Okota area of the state predominantly populated by the Ibo speaking people after they had voted and wanted their votes to count in the 2019 general elections has remained a matter of concern to an average Nigerian.
To their consternation, the voting process was disrupted by the political thugs who constantly remind the voters in Okota axis that they are in the state to do business and leave and never to alter the political equation or decide who governs the state. The thugs immediately get the electoral materials destroyed in the wake of the attack.
The disruption of the poll by suspected hoodlums believed to be loyal to a certain political party involved in the polls led to the intervention of the police.
The incident did not augur well for so many political pundits who had decried the attack and many of the residents of the area too have taken to the social media decrying the violence even as they share pictures of destroyed electoral materials, including ballot papers that were set on fire.
Abel Nwokolo, a trader said: “They said we are Igbo, that they don’t trust us. That we are rooting for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Nothing more. That is why they attacked us and burnt our votes. That we were attacked is not the issue but where is the security we were promised will be provided by the government to checkmate this kind of dastardly act?”
As tongues go waging, the Commissioner of Police in Lagos State, Zubairu Muazu Muazu said about 23 persons have been arrested for various electoral offences in the state .
He said nine persons were arrested for allegedly burning and destroying election materials at Okota, noting that that 10 motorcycles allegedly used by the hoodlums to move to Okota were recovered.
He said nine persons linked to a cult group were also arrested for thuggery in Somolu area and for attempting to cause problems during the elections.
Muazu said that during a stop and search operation by some policemen, two suspects were arrested at Stadium area, Surulere, in a private car, and one locally-made pistol was recovered from them.
“At Alakara area of Mushin, three suspects were arrested for trying to disrupt the elections. No death was recorded in Lagos State. Although social media said so. In all the areas I visited, I did not see any dead person”, he said.
Commenting on the political development in the state, a chieftain of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state, Chied Olabode George, who lost his polling unit to President Muhammadu Buhari in his Ward E2, polling unit 001, in Oko-Faji, Lagos Island area said though the election was generally peaceful, pockets of attacks recorded in some parts of the state were worrisome.
He condemned the alleged attacks on the agents of his party in some areas of Lagos, and called for an immediate investigation and arrest of suspected political thugs involved.
He said reports reaching him from Oshodi-Isolo and Okota showed that PDP supporters were harassed and disenfranchised, a development he described as unfortunate.
“What is so special about election every four years that we cannot get it right”, he asked rhetorically.
The PDP chief, who said he has reported the incidents to the police, therefore called on security agencies to ensure that those who perpetrated the crimes are apprehended and made to face justice in accordance with the electoral act.
Meanwhile, as results from the Saturday Presidential and National Assembly elections trickle in, the national leader of the All Progressives Congress, (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Lagos State Governor Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode won their various polling units for Buhari.
According to the results announced at Tinubu’s polling unit, APC polled 121 votes as against 53 polled by the PDP. Tinubu thereby won his Polling Unit 047, Ward 3 located at Sunday Adigun, Alausa, in Ikeja, Lagos for the president.
In the Senatorial election, APC scored 134 votes to defeat PDP, which polled 46 votes.
In the House Representatives election, APC got 124 votes while PDP scored 45 votes.
In the same vein, Ambode also won his polling unit in Epe for the APC candidate, President Muhammadu Buhari.
Ambode voted at his polling unit with his wife around 10:01am at Ward A5, polling unit 033, Ogunmodede College in Ajaganabe Area, Papa Epe.
After the count, APC polled 131 votes, while the PDP polled 116 votes in the presidential election.
Tinubu, while commenting on the election said the party would accept the outcome of a free a fair election.
According to him, a true democrat would accept the outcome of a free and fair election if the party should lose.
Tinubu said, “I will accept the result of the election if we lose, if that is the people’s verdict, any democrat that cannot accept the result of a free and fair contest is not worthy of the name being called a democrat. He must be able to accept the result of a free and fair election.’’
He however, expressed optimism that the APC would win the election, saying “Winning is my hope and determination for my party; we are winning because we have the support of the masses. Look back at our rallies, that is an indication of who has the populace, we are not talking about the elite, the rich, but the traders, artisans and the common man.”
According to him, if the opposition rejected the outcome of the election, it showed they were not democrats, and that “they don’t believe in the value and philosophy, you can see their desperation.”
Tinubu also said the election had been successful so far, and that this demonstrated the resiliency of Nigerians.
He said he would give the electorate the credit because despite the fact that their hope was dashed last week when the election was postponed, they still came out in large number to cast their votes.
Tinubu also commended INEC for doing a great job.
“I am satisfied with what INEC is doing so far. You don’t drive yourself like a vehicle, you can easily develop fuel problem on the highway,” he said, adding that INEC’s challenges so far had to do with the problem of nature.
Lagos polls had some upsets, as Lagos State People’s Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate, Jimi Agbaje, who voted at his unit 004, Ward A, Hindra Road, Liverpool, GRA, Apapa lost his polling unit and said the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has not lived up to expectation on its card reader.
He said the Presidential candidate of the PDP, Atiku Abubakar, will win the election.
The politician, who had arrived in his polling unit early noted that the card reader could not recognise his fingerprint, that of his wife Oluyemisi and two other people ahead of him during accreditation.
He added that INEC had no excuse on why it cannot present voters with seamless election, noting that the commission had four years to prepare for the exercise.
“We have one or two issues at some polling units. In ward 009, Eti Osa council, where 500 ballot papers are being expected only 400 ballot papers were delivered.
“In my polling unit, I am concerned that the card readers are not working. This further supports the fact that elections are being tainted. It means my voting now depends on what the INEC official wants, whether to allow me to vote or not.
“Again, there is no provision for the agents to know whether the man who the card reader could not identity is the actual person that was now allowed to vote by the INEC officials having failed card reader’s scrutiny”, he said.
Agbaje said he was sure of victory, noting his party would win the election and its chances brighter than it was before the postponement last week.
“The security situation is better, the police and other agents deployed for the election are doing great job. I am more confident than before that Alhaji Atiku Abubakar will win the election.
“There are more votes on our side, there are more number on our side. Everybody should stay behind after casting vote because the law allows it.
“I must say INEC cannot justify the postponement because it had four years to prepare for the election. Logistic reasons given by INEC are not tenable”, he said.
The APC however sprung some surprises in Saturday’s general elections in his polling unit by winning the Senatorial and Presidential polls in unit 004 Hinderea Road, Liverpool area, Apapa Lagos.
Announcing the results after delays in sorting the votes, the Polling Officer, Mr Omolain Ehichioya, said the APC polled 83 votes in the presidential election at the unit while PDP got 80 votes.
He said the Young Democratic Party (YPP), the Social Democratic Party (SDP) the African Democratic Party (ADP), and African Action Congress (AAC) and Alliance for Peoples Agenda (APA) and Yes Electorate Solidarity (YES) party got one vote each.
In the Senatorial results, the APC got 88 votes, the PDP 79 while Zenith Labour Party (ZLP)and People’s Trust (PT) got one vote each.
However, the PDP got the highest vote of 84 in the House of Representatives results, followed closely by APC with 74 votes and Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) with eight votes.
Abundant Renewal Nigeria Party (ANRP) recorded two votes while Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN) got one vote.
The governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Lagos State, Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu who also lost his polling unit expressed optimism that his party would win Saturday’s presidential and National Assembly polls.
Sanwo-Olu praised INEC’s conduct of the polls, describing it as transparent but in need of better timing.
Sanwo-Olu said: “I think the process is transparent, but I think we can still do a bit better with timing. The observation we have here is that we have two booths in which you can vote, and we have only one part, so, and it takes a while for them to search that long paper before they get your name. But outside of the time, which we understand they need to do a thorough job, I think every other thing has been very okay.”
He added: “From what I have seen, and from the little comments I have heard around, it’s 12 O’clock now, I believe it’s been satisfactory, from the few people I’ve had interactions with, from the few observers that have come around our polling booth here, I think it’s been pretty commendable.”
Sanwo-Olu, whose thumbprint was recognised by the smart card reader after some slight delay said,” My wife’s finger got approved the first time, maybe my fingers are a bit pressured up, I don’t know, but at least I got to thumb print and I have since voted.”
He also explained that he transferred his polling booth from his ancestral home on Lagos Island East Constituency to Eti-Osa Federal Constituency, two years ago, following his change of residence.
In another upset, the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, on Saturday failed to deliver his unit, 033, is located on Victoria Garden City, Lekki with the All Progressives Congress losing the presidential and the National Assembly polls to the Peoples Democratic Party.
The APC got 167, while the Peoples Democratic Congress polled 244 for the House of Representatives. For Senate, the APC polled 228 against PDPs 378. The APC got 197 in the presidential poll, while the PDP got 384.