By YUSUF MOHAMMED
Lagos, known as “the centre of excellence” almost became a centre of hostility due to voter suppression and intimidation in the February 23 presidential and national assembly elections.
According to reports, the targets were mainly areas dominated by supporters of the main opposition party in the state.
As a result, voters are not as enthusiastic as they were two weeks ago. The mood around Lagos now ahead of the governorship and state house of assembly elections tomorrow, is pall, especially in the camp of the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Jimi Agbaje.
However, his main challenger, Babajide Sanwo-Olu of the All Progressives Congress, APC seems to be in a more comfortable position.
The general election two weeks ago is one that many residents of Lagos won’t forget in a hurry as thugs were deployed to snatch ballot boxes from polling units. This was done under the watchful eyes of security agents. There is a video online of hoodlums chasing away voters from a polling unit in Okota, Lagos. When they succeeded in chasing away the voters, they destroyed the voting materials.
There was also an ugly incident at Alaba International Market in Lagos. Voters were being harassed for refusing to vote for a candidate of one of the main political parties.
Business Hallmark gathered from a reliable source that the election was characterized by violence in areas mostly populated with supporters believed to be of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Lagos which is a cosmopolitan city with Nigerians from diverse ethnic backgrounds was like a war-zone two weeks ago and many residents are worried.
Speaking with this newspaper, Caroline Onu an agent of the PDP in the just concluded presidential and national assembly elections urged fellow Igbos in Lagos not to come out and vote during the governorship polls. According to her, Igbos are the targets of violence and intimidation. She said, “There is no need to vote in the governorship election. They say Lagos belongs to them and they don’t want us vote. What can we do? I advice my Igbo brothers and sisters to stay at home. Life is more important.”
Contrary to Caroline’s view, Shola Adeniyi who is an agent of the APC denied that there was voter intimidation in Lagos. Speaking to this newspaper he said, “It is normal for there to be crises were two or more people are gathered. It had nothing to do with disenfranchising the Igbos as it is being speculated. I think some mischief makers are only trying to heat up the polity for reasons best known to them.
“I repeat, no ethnic group is being targeted deliberately in Lagos.”
The Vice-Presidential candidate of the PDP in the February 23 poll, Mr. Peter Obi, is also worried about the ugly trend. He has warned those trying to intimidate voters in some parts of the country to stop.
He expressed worry over alleged threat by some people in Lagos State that voters would be dealt with should they vote for a certain political party.
Obi, who spoke with reporters in Onitsha on Thursday, said such people were staring what they could not finish, stressing that the constitution guaranteed every Nigerian the right to vote for candidates of their choice.
He said, “Every Nigerian is free to vote where he resides without molestation and those who are trying to force people to vote a particular political party are starting what they cannot control.
“Our people are law-abiding and they have contributed immensely to developing the places where they live. Therefore, they have the right to help in determining who governs them.”
Meanwhile ahead of Saturday’s governorship House of Assembly elections, National Leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, on Wednesday met with members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW, in Lagos State and cautioned them against instigating violence during the exercise.
The Union members met with the APC national leader at his residence in Bourdillon, Ikoyi, to congratulate him over the victory of his party at the just concluded Presidential election and discuss about upcoming elections in the state. At the meeting, it was gathered that Tinubu, who was accompanied by Senator Ganiyu Solomon, urged the members to cast their votes for the APC governorship candidate, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu and other candidates of the party without intimidating anyone or group of persons.
Despite the reassurance by the APC leader that this election would be different, many Lagos residents seem not to be interested. It remains to be seen if this will be rancor free.