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Governor Akinwunmi Ambode votes in yesterday's local government election in Lagos State

The cost of elections

The man in the photograph below is Al-Marouf Ashiru. He was stabbed in Lagos yesterday. His story is below…

I am the LGA [Local Government Area] Secretary for the PDP [Peoples Democratic Party] in Mushin. Due to the [Ali Modu] Sheriff and [Ahmed] Makarfi power tussle, there was no agreement on which faction’s candidates should be fielded for the Council elections, so the leader decided that the PDP will align with the Labour Party. As a result, I was given the responsibilities of a Returning Officer and Supervisor, making me to have I to move round to monitor events and report.

I was at Odi-Olowo LCDA [Local Council Development Area] secretariat Friday night/Saturday morning to monitor the distribution of sensitive materials. I went round the polling units in the morning and I observed that the struggle was between the Accord Party and APC [All Progressives Congress]. APC had massively mobilized thugs from Fadeyi, Mushin Ajinna and Oshodi, the boys are fierce looking and fully armed with guns, knives, cutlasses, short axes, charms and all what not. When they met me at Cosy-Bethel Primary School, they checked my tag and noticed I represent Labour Party, the head of the team Olumide Taiwo (aka Syro) asked them to let me go.

Later, I went to Ajegunle street in Ajegunle zone, where they had gathered in even larger numbers. A PDP agent was dragged away from the polling booth and was given money to leave, but the two Accord party agents (women) who disagreed were invited into a building and threatened. They had called the party reps on phone to bring money for bribes, then spoke with the two INEC officials and the police to allow their APC supporters multiple voting.

The arrangement could not work then because the Accord agents and I would not agree to the plan. These agents were dragged to one corner and threatened, then they were overpowered and APC voters came in their multitude to vote with or without PVC and in multiples of three or four times until the ballot papers were exhausted.

I took some secret pictures and left. On getting to my street, the voting process had ended, I along with the INEC officials, agents and the police had counted counted the votes with Accord party in the lead, results has been written and signed by all agents including me for Labour party, but the Accord party agent said she would not collect the results because the duplicate copies were not clear enough.

While waiting for the results to the be re-written, the thugs marched down and ordered everybody to leave brandishing different weapons. In the bid to rob me my trousers were torn. They hit me with any object they could lay their hands on, plastic chairs, sticks etc. When they noticed my hesitation in releasing my phone, one of them stabbed my hand and then they fled.

It is important to point out that all I have is Mr. Ashiru’s account. I am not in Lagos at the moment, and do not have other accounts. However, I think it is important that this story is told, and quickly.

The LGA elections in Lagos have come and gone, but the desperate violence witnessed in the APC primaries, and then yesterday despite the heavy downpour is a pointer to what we may see in two years.

The rewards of politics in Nigeria are too great, and the apathy of the populace to anything outside the presidential elections is too high.

The major damage to Nigeria is done at the local level. It eventually calcifies as it goes up. It is not Buhari that will come and pack the rubbish in front of your house. In the same breath, it is important to note that the people who do this local damage, are training. They are getting into the system, and growing. They are building networks. In a few years, they are the people who will become governors and Senators. If you are a member of my class of Nigerians, this message is for you. The apathy has to stop.

By Cheta Nwanze.  This report was first published in Medium.com 

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