By Ayoola Olaoluwa and Obinna Ezugwu
The governorship and House of Assembly elections took place under an atmosphere of tension in several parts of the country, and in the end completely erased all the gains of the new Electoral Act, which had been promoted as a new beginning for Nigeria’s democracy.
Nigerians had put their hope on the efficacy and performance of the technology introduced by the new Electoral Act, but the outcomes in the two elections that held on February 25 and March 18 completely dashed such hopes.
In the February 25 presidential election, it was inability of the BVAS to upload to the IReV that thwarted the popular will of the people, and left the country in suspense. But the outrage of the gubernatorial polls on March 18, according to former president Goodluck Jonathan, took Nigeria 10 years backward, as politicians, especially incumbent governors, desperate to retain power, threw caution to wind, and completely negated the expected gain of the Act, and nullified the role of technology in checking rigging in the election.
Despite appreciable improvements noticed in the conduct of the polls, compared to the Presidential and National Assembly polls of February 25th, Saturday’s election was characterized by voter apathy, delays and postponements, violence, intimidation, and hijack of materials in the South West and North West geopolitical zones.
In the South West region, several irregularities, especially violence, were witnessed in Lagos, Oyo and Osun, three out of the six states, where elections were held.
While governorship elections were held in Lagos, Ogun and Oyo, House of Assembly elections were held in all the six states, including Osun, Ondo and Ekiti where elections had held earlier.
Though election officials and materials arrived in many polling units as early as 7.30am, the election proper was dogged by political violence in areas like Isolo, Oshodi, Ikate in Eti-Osa, Ojo, FESTAC and Amuwo-Odofin.
In the Ago area of Okota, one person was feared dead when voters resisted an attempt by hoodlums to snatch election materials.
In some polling units, there were complaints of harassment and intimidation of voters by some political thugs, who denied them the chance of voting for candidates of their choice.
Saturday’s House of Assembly election was also marred by violence and voter apathy in Osun.
In Ila-Orangun, the hometown of former APC chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, one person was shot when hoodlums shot at some APC members, who were protesting over-voting in the unit.
Also, hoodlums invaded polling units 10 and 11, 17 and 32, Ataoja Ward 5 in Osogbo LGA and disrupted the process.
Ife-Central also experienced cases of violence. For instance, hoodlums invaded Iremo Ojatuntun Ward 3 Unit18 in the town, destroying ballot papers and boxes.
In Ondo, violence, low turnout of voters, and vote-buying marred the polls in places like Ute in Oye and Idanre town.
In Ute, several cases of snatching of ballot were recorded. For instance, thugs hijacked and destroyed ballot boxes and other voting materials in 10 of the 12 units in Ward 12.
The polling units where ballot boxes were destroyed included 1, 2, 3, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14 and 15, of Ward 12 at Ute.
Party candidates were also seen given out dollar notes unhindered to voters in many voting centres in Uye.
In Idanre, a policeman and a resident were hit by stray bullets during a clash between security men and political thugs.
Like in Lagos, Osun and Ondo, pockets of violence were also recorded in Ogun State. In Ogun East, masked hoodlums invaded many polling units in the district, disrupting voting.
The thugs stormed polling units belonging to opponents of their sponsors, attacking people and destroying electoral materials. One of the polling units is in Eleja, Sagamu, where the hoodlums set electoral materials on fire after chasing away election officials and voters.
The ugly scene also played out at Itori-Odo in Abeokuta, Idowa, Ijebu Igbo and many others where the thugs destroyed ballot papers and boxes.
Meanwhile, apart from voter apathy, which marred the polls in Oyo and Ekiti, the election was generally peaceful in the two South West states.
In spite of the hitches, the polls went seamlessly in many parts of the South West.
Apart from Kano and Kaduna States where cases of violence were recorded, polling went almost unhindered in the remaining five North West states of Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto, Jigawa and Zamfara.
Voting was largely peaceful in Kano, except in few polling units in Rimingado in Rimin Gado LGA where unidentified thugs disrupted the process and destroyed ballot papers and boxes at Dugurawa, Jujin Kosau, Jili ward, Yelwa and Kongi 009.
Some officials of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) who tried to stop the attack were injured by the hoodlums, with many of the NSCDC officials having bruises all over their bodies and their uniforms covered in blood and dirt.
Kaduna State, apart from experiencing pre-election violence days to the election, was largely peaceful on election day. However, both Governor El Rufai and the APC candidate, Senator Uba Sani, complained of intimidation of opponents by the PDP in Southern Kaduna.
On March 10th, eight days to the poll proper, four persons were injured after political thugs attacked the convoy of the governorship candidate of the Labour Party (LP) in the state, Jonathan Asake.
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Asake’s convoy was attacked at Gidan Waya in Jema’a LGA of the state when his campaign train was passing through the town on their way to Godogodo and others.
It took the timely intervention of the security personnel attached to the candidate to forestall a major bloodbath.
The polls on the other hand almost went without any incident on election day until angry vote buyers attacked some operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on election monitoring, who tried to arrest one of them at School Road, Unguwan Rimi, Kaduna.
According to EFCC spokesperson, Wilson Uwujaren, the operatives, working on intelligence on the alleged activities of one Kabiru Musa, who was seen in an amateur video allegedly inducing eligible voters by using his phone to transfer money into their accounts as they cast their votes, had mobilised to the scene to arrest him.
However, he said the suspect became violent immediately he was accosted by the operatives.
“Musa became unruly and screamed to attract the attention of members of his syndicate, who descended on the operatives, using all manner of weapons that left some of them injured.
“It took great restraints for the operatives to ignore the unprovoked attack even as they insisted on arresting the suspect.
“As the team drove away with the suspect, their vehicle was pelted with stones and other dangerous objects that damaged the windshield and three operatives suffered varying degrees of injuries in the process.
“The injured operatives are currently receiving medical attention at the Medical Centre of the Kaduna Zonal Command, while the suspect is in custody, pending conclusion of the investigation,” Uwujaren said.
South South and South East
While the bulk of attention focused on Lagos where ethnic profiling and violence marred polls, several states in the South South and South East of the country also witnessed high levels of voters intimidation and violence.
Notably, in Rivers State, where Nyesom Wike, the incumbent governor had vowed to ensure the emergence of his chosen candidate, Simi Fubara, the election was predictably a worse replica of the events that played out during the presidential election on February 25 during which votes of one political party were brazenly transferred to another party, this time with human cost.
The preceding days had witnessed arrest and detention of a few opposition figures, in what looked like an obvious intimidation, and on Saturday, things got to a head.
In Port Harcourt, the state capital, gunshots rented the air in war fashion, even as the outcome of the presidential election which many argued did not reflect actual voting, caused a level of voter apathy. Voting in the capital was marred by intimidation, and ad-hoc staff failed to upload polling unit results in real time, which caused agitations at the collation centre on Sunday, with many party agents protesting the results being announced.
In Ahoada West Local Government Area, Chiosom Lennard, the Director-General of Tonye Cole, APC governorship candidate’s campaign, was murdered while trying to prevent gunmen in police uniform from snatching ballot boxes.
In Khana and Bori local governments, the Ogoni heartland and stronghold of Senator Magnus Abe, governorship candidate of Social Democratic Party (SDP) voters became restive upon realising that the electoral materials brought by INEC officials were those of Ikwere local government area, leading to the killing of two persons.
According to many residents, elections didn’t hold in many polling units a result, but results were later announced for the polling units. In Ogbakiri Community, Emohua local government, three persons were killed when gunmen invaded Elibrada Community, shooting sporadically.
The Chairman of the APC, Chief Emeka Beke, disclosed that the three victims, with a sitting lawmaker in the state, had hijacked ballot boxes before the military arrived.
According to him, the three were killed while attempting to make away with the sensitive materials. Two other persons were killed during a heavy shooting at Bori, the headquarters of Khana LGA in the state, when voters trooped out en masse to protest alleged irregularities.
The voters alleged that materials were transferred to the homes of top politicians, while materials meant for Ikwerre LGA were sent to them. At least 22 Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) machines were reportedly missing in Rivers State.
In Delta State where the PDP eventually did well, violence marred the process in Mosogar, Ethiope West Local Government Area, as two persons were reportedly shot dead, and the house of a former Chairman of the local government area, Dr. Wilson Omene, set ablaze.
The victims were shot dead by military personnel as they allegedly tried to flee a polling unit with snatched ballot boxes. One of the two persons who disrupted the polling exercise at Utagaba-Uno in Ndokwa West Local Government Area was also reportedly killed.
In Edo State where there was only state assembly elections, ballot boxes were also snatched by political thugs in a number of polling units.
In Cross River State, a member of the APC was also shot dead at Ogoja in the northern senatorial district of the state. The victim, identified as Joe, was allegedly shot dead by a soldier for causing a crisis at a polling unit.
In Akwa Ibom State, where thugs ran rampage and had free reign snatching ballot boxes, according to eyewitness accounts, two persons, whose identities were unknown, were reportedly shot dead by security operatives while approaching the INEC office at Oko Ita headquarters of Ibiono Ibom LGA for an undisclosed mission.
The governorship candidate of the Young Progressives Party (YPP), Senator Bassey Albert, told journalists at his country home that the corpses were immediately taken away in an official government vehicle. Senator Albert from Ibiono Ibom LGA expressed shock over the incident and called on security operatives to properly investigate the killing.
But Udom Emmanuel, the state governor, who is backing his chosen candidate, Pastor Umo Enoh, while speaking with journalists after voting in his area, Awa Iman, ward 1, unit 1, Onna LGA, decried the invasion of the state by fake police personnel.
Emmanuel said he knew of a woman, who came to the state as Commissioner of Police with a truckload of fake policemen to disrupt the elections.
Ebonyi State, in the South East, which had witnessed series of violent attacks on opposition figures in the months leading up to the election, became a theatre of war on the election day.
Intimidation of voters by thugs suspected to be working for the ruling party prevented elections from holding in many polling units, but results were uploaded and announced for the polling units all the same.
Peter Nweke, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Chairman for Ezza North Local Government Area of the state, was shot dead by thugs when he attempted to vote in his polling unit in Ogboji ward, Nkomorow.
Onome Onovwakpoyeya, spokesperson for the state police command, who confirmed the incident, said that the victim was not shot as speculated but was beaten up by suspected political thugs, who invaded polling units in Ezza North LG and disrupted voting.
Onovwakpoyeya said information at her disposal indicated that Mweke was later rushed to the hospital where was pronounced dead.
Suspected APC thugs also reportedly shot dead a party agent in Amautu Onicha community in Onicha LGA of the state. This is even as many who attempted to vote for their preferred candidates said they faced intimidation and harassment.
In Enugu where the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) suffered major defeats in the hands of Labour Party on February 25, apparently decided to fight to finish on Saturday.
In many parts of Nsukka, the would-be stronghold of the Labour Party governorship candidate, Chijioke Edeoga, thugs attempted to disrupt voting. The Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) confirmed the arrest of scores of these suspected thugs in the area.
Spokesman of the Enugu State Command of the corps, Danny Iwuchukwu, who confirmed the arrest, said that the operation was carried out in the early hours of Friday.
He said that the thugs, numbering over 100, were arrested by officers of the Nigerian Army providing security in the Nsukka axis after an intelligence tip-off at a popular hotel in Nsukka.
He noted that the thugs, who were arrested with AK-47 rifles and other dangerous weapons, including axes, clubs, and matchets, have since been handed over to the Nigeria Police in Nsukka.
Despite the efforts, however, there were still pockets of crisis in places like Uzo Uwani local government where thugs disrupted voting.
In Abia where voting was largely peaceful on Saturday, thugs suspected to be loyal to the PDP, invaded the INEC collation centre at Obingwa on Sunday with a view to alter the results, as it became clear that Dr. Alex Otti of the Labour Party was headed for victory.
“Thugs have invaded our Obingwa Local Government Area office in Abia State,” INEC announced on Sunday. “Security agencies have been alerted. The Commission is monitoring the situation and will issue a statement shortly.”