THE Governorship and House of Assembly election in Lagos witnessed violence; in this report, Bankole ABE tracked and spoke with victims and witnesses across different parts of the state.
The 2023 elections have come and gone, won and lost, but the scars and pains deposited in the heart of many Nigerians linger on.
The sordid tales of blood, tears and lasting pains abound despite the assurances of security in Lagos during the governorship election made by the Police Commissioner, Idowu Owohunwa.
The Presidential election on Saturday, February 25, came with its share of violence. Jennifer Edifi, was attacked at her polling unit in Surulere.
Edifi, a mother of two, who went viral after the incident, went out to vote but was attacked and returned home with a battered face courtesy of political thugs.
However, her courage to return to her polling unit 065 in Surulere to cast her vote despite the attack made many celebrate her as a heroine of democracy.
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Like Edifi, many Nigerians were enthusiastic about voting in the governorship election. The reason for their enthusiasm cannot be far-fetched; the Police in Lagos and at the National level have assured that the election will be well secured.
The Independent National Election Commission (INEC) responsible for conducting elections in the country has repeatedly stated that the 2023 elections will differ from previous polls.
With these assurances in mind and armed with their voter’s card, many Lagos residents woke up energised about voting; some of them, voting for the first time, arrived at their polling units, eager to vote, but some ended up disappointed and battered.
The ICIR earlier reported the case of 65 years old John Kadiri* (Not real name), who resides in Iba Town, Ojo area of the state; he was rudely woken up at midnight on Sunday, March 19, a day after the election and was told the Oba of the area wanted to see him.
“At this time of the night? He asked, “Let me quickly put on something,” he pleaded, but according to him, his pleas were rejected.
He was not allowed to put on any cloth or take anything. On the way to the palace, he was stabbed several times. The Oba has, however, deny any involvement. Click HERE for a detailed report on Kadiri.
Also tragic is the case of 68-year-old Simon Maduekwe, who died from a commotion arising from the activities of political thugs during the election.
Gloomy faces greeted The ICIR reporter when he arrived at the residence of the late Maduekwe in Somolu Lagos on Sunday, April 16. Madukwe’s widow, Grace, sat quietly surrounded by her children.
The atmosphere was that of despair and grief. One could not have expected anything different from a family that had just lost their patriarch.
After a few minutes of silence, the son of the deceased, Somtochukwu, summoned the courage to speak. “To take you back, the Presidential election happened on February 25, so the polling unit for the two streets, Fatomi and Nnaemeka, had one entrance and one polling unit, and it was stationed in front of our house,” he explained.
Somtochukwu said the ruling party has constantly lost the location, which he said might be due to the predominance of non-indigenes in the area.
“So most of the time, the ruling party are constantly losing this particular polling unit, so during the presidential election, they lost this polling unit, so they were unhappy that they lost the polling unit and the others like the senatorial and the rest.
“So they were unhappy about it and even wanted to scatter the place that very day; they just freed it. We already knew that during the governorship election, they might allow the Presidential election to slide but will not allow the governorship to slide. So they were already angry about what happened during the presidential,” the grieving young man said.
On how his father died, he said the problem started when some thugs invaded the Polling unit stationed in front of their compound with dangerous weapons and noticed that someone was recording them. The person ran into their compound.
“They got angry, rushed him, and he ran into the compound, and they were pushing the gate, then they overpowered him. “
“I went down with my younger brother to meet them. We now met them at the back, where they were threatening him, so someone came and begged them that they should let him delete the video, and he deleted the video in my presence, but they kept threatening him that they would deal with him.”
“So we all left the compound to go outside to resume normal voting; the place was still rowdy because people were still angry about what happened; that was when I heard my dad’s voice. He now called one of them to complain that he didn’t like how they were beating people and running into his compound”.
“It was during that commotion; this was within a split second, the next thing I was seeing my dad was falling on the ground and collapsing so because I removed my eyes after he made that complaint, so I don’t know if someone pushed him during that process; he fell, hit his head on the ground, so people started screaming then I now rushed to him.
“He was looking unconscious, so people tried their possible best to see if they could revive him, but he wasn’t still responding, so we had to look for a vehicle; so one APC guy brought his vehicle, then we drove him to the hospital, Somolu General hospital so the doctor did a CPR on him, checked his pulse and vitals there was none so she told us she now said we brought my dad late. That was what happened to my dad.
“If those boys had not come to start causing chaos here, my father might still be alive.”
“He was okay. He was 68, he had High Blood Pressure that he was managing, and he usually goes to the hospital to manage his BP,” Somtochukwu stated after a brief pause.
Somtochukwu urged on by his siblings, said he cannot ascertain if his father was pushed, “but in the midst of the chaos, that’s when he fell; the way he fell was not normal,” he said.
“We took him to the East on Tuesday after the election. The Wake Keep is on April 27 in Lagos; he will be buried on May 12,” he added.
A party agent with the Labour Party in the Trade fair area in Lagos Onyeka also told The ICIR how his brother was shot and killed by thugs on Saturday, March 18.
Onyeka confirmed the incident but declined further comment on the matter.
Other victims of electoral violence in Lagos
Austin Esuriemen, an agent of the Labour Party at Polling Unit 080 Cele Oluwatedo, Ishashi, Ojo, Lagos, never imagined being attacked and brutalised in his neighbourhood by anyone in the area where he is known.
“I was one of the agents injured during the governorship election at my polling unit.”
“I was attacked by some political thugs of the APC; they said because I was part of the Labour Party that we should not vote. That anybody they see there, they are going to injure him.”
“Actually, that morning, they came when we were all getting ready to exercise our voting right. They came and told us to leave.”
“Later, they brought some cars and buses with bottles, cutlasses, and jass known as Ibate, and they came and chased everybody with guns, even the police officers they left”.
“They attacked me because one pointed me to them because most of them knew me in the area.”
Austin stated that the thugs came from Igando, another axis.
In Ikeja, Queen Ezeogu, was attacked during the governorship election. She sustained a fracture on her arm. She said the victory of the Labour Party (LP) during the Presidential election in Lagos, which was supposed to be a thing of joy, turned out to be a nightmare as it resulted in reorganisation in the ruling party’s camp and created fear in the heart of the opposition parties.
She said, “Even the agent we were supposed to work with, the number was shortened because people were afraid to come out and participate, so during the governorship election, we were short of agents, and because of that me too, I was afraid because I had gotten a threat already before the election. I didn’t take it seriously.”
“I have to handle the two polling units. Polling unit 042 and 077, Ikeja ward E.”
On how she sustained a broken hand, Queen said, “Some corp members came and brought out their ballot papers and were cancelling some things that some of us don’t know.
“So one of us went close to check what they were doing, he saw them and brought his phone out to take evidence to snap, just then they just rushed him and asked him why is he ‘snapping’ them, they collected his phone.
“So the noise was much people were now gathering to see what was happening, so to avoid a problem, he brought out his phone to show them that nothing was there; they checked his trash.”
“Two men came and were asking the man where his phone was. I pleaded with them that there was no problem again; he brought his phone and started recording us; we were three women.”
“I asked him to delete my picture and video on his phone; that was how he slapped me; I was like, why? I threw the phone away; I threw the phone on the floor; the other people at the back rushed me; this one was hitting me, this one punched me, and my eyes were closed that day. I couldn’t see with these eyes.
“They were dragging me on the floor, marching me with on the same hand, they naked me, they naked me there “, she cried.
According to her, she met herself at Saint Leo Hospital, Ikeja, after the incident with pains and her hand badly damaged and was later taken to Igbobi orthopaedic hospital, where she has been receiving treatment since then.
Another victim, Chidinma, said she almost died when she went out to vote in that election.
Chidinma, who said her husband had warned her not to talk about politics again, said she was attacked and humiliated and saw her life flash before her.
“In my own very eyes, I saw death surround me. Is this the better Nigeria?” she asked.
“At my polling unit at Okota Oshodi / Isolo Balogun Ward 034, the Councillor on the street told his thugs and some of us that he failed to deliver his constituency during the Presidential Election and that if he failed again in this governorship, they will demote him.
“Barely 45 minutes, thugs came and threw all the ballot papers into the gutter.”
“In my hiding, I wept like a child. People were dipping their hands into the gutter to bring out the papers,” she stated.
Freeman Freeman, a resident of Abaranje in Ikotun, Lagos, was attacked at his Polling unit at the Ola Farm area of Abaranje.
In a chat with The ICIR, Freeman narrated how he was beaten and injured by a group of thugs for coming out to exercise his voting right.
APC, LP and PDP speak
A stalwart of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the Ojo area of the state who chooses to remain anonymous for fear of being attacked said the ruling party and its supporters unleashed violence on voters in the state to win the governorship election.
“They came with violence; their winning strategy was based on violence and intimidation. They released all their thugs on us to attack and humiliate our supporters. It was a very serious issue,” he said.
The PDP Lagos State chapter had earlier on Sunday, March 19, condemned violence, attacks and snatching of ballot boxes during the State’s Governorship/House of Assembly Elections.
The Publicity Secretary of the party, Hakeem Amode, in a statement in Lagos on March 19, said the violence led to the death of some persons.
“The Lagos State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is using this medium to condemn the spate of violence and attacks that trailed the Governorship/State House of Assembly Elections, which took place in the state on Saturday,” Amode stated.
On her part, the Publicity Secretary of the Labour Party in Lagos, Olubunmi Odesanya, said electoral violence in Lagos was rampant during the election.
She said several party members were stabbed and injured during the election.
“That there was electoral violence in Lagos State during the last elections is incontrovertible.
“The election (especially the Gubernatorial election of March 18, 2023) was marred with intimidation/harassment of voters; several of the Labour Party’s supporters were stabbed and injured, while some were killed.”
She added that the violence took place everywhere in Lagos and started very early when the APC thugs told opposition parties’ Supporters not to come out and vote if they won’t vote for APC.
“Violence occurred in Surulere, Apapa, Amuwo, Ikorodu, Lekki, Ajah, Epe Shomolu, Ojo, Mushin, Ikeja Etc. There was violence, harassment and intimidation in all the Local Governments and LCDAs in Lagos.”
“Labour Party recorded several casualties. More than 10 of our Supporters were stabbed and recorded various degrees of injuries, which led to death,” she added.
Speaking on the matter, the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor of Lagos State, Gboyega Akosile, disagreed with the PDP and LP; he said that although there was violence, it was not widespread.
He described what happened in Lagos as a pocket of skirmishes in a few polling units.
“There was no “spread” of electoral violence in Lagos. They’re a pocket of skirmishes in some polling units. In fact, from the police reports, the violent units represented less than 1 per cent of the 13,325 polling units that spread across Lagos.
“So in your judgment, would you describe that as widespread as being promoted by the opposition, which some media outlets are also reporting? No, 1 per cent can’t be “widespread”, so there wasn’t anything like that in Lagos. The election was free, fair and credible,” Akosile said.
A Resident of Somolu, Lagos, Dokun Ojumo, said that though his area was peaceful, he witnessed voters’ intimidation and harassment.
“The polling booths were crowded by APC followers who wanted to see whom you were voting for; hence there was little privacy.”
“Also, Yoruba people in the area threatened not to rent houses to Igbos and non-indigenes if they refused to vote APC,” Ojumo stated.
Another resident of Lagos, Christopher Olalekan, who spoke to The ICIR in the Igando axis of the state, said he witnessed violent attacks on some polling units in his area.
“There was not much crisis at the Presidential election, but there was a serious issue in the Governorship election on March 18.
“It was so bloody; all those thugs came to the Igando area, scattered everywhere, injured many people with cutlasses, and chased everybody away,” Olalekan said.
Many people who spoke blamed the police for their inability to curtail the activities of the thugs that went on a rampage during the election.
Some, however, absolved the police of blame, claiming there was nothing the police could do about the level of thuggery and violence unleashed on the residents.
According to Ezeogo, who was attacked in Ikeja, the police were nowhere to be seen during the attack.
“The Police were not there; it was later that the CSO came was asking me what the problem was, then I was already beaten. Police have not reached out since then,” she said.
Olalekan quoted earlier, said that with what he saw, there was nothing the police could do.
“The Police were not able to contain them; they were more than the police in numbers. The ones there were just looking. You can’t blame them,” he said.
In his view, Somtochukwu, who lost his father to the election, said the police wanted to take up the case, but the family was not interested in pursuing the matter for peace to reign.
“We reported to the police; actually, the police wanted to take the case up, but we wanted to avoid pursuing the case. The family just felt we needed to let peace reign because of the kind of area we stay we don’t want to start making issues.
In the case of Asuriemen in Ishashi, the police absconded when the thugs arrived.
“We believed the police were going to help us out to secure us. We stood there and said we were going to vote, they came, and the police people left,” Asuriemen stated.
The Lagos CP, Owohunwa, in an interview with Channels TV after the election in March, said cases of violence in the governorship elections within the state were anticipated.
Owohunwa confirmed the attacks on voters and electoral officers at some Lagos polling units, saying, “It is true that we’ve recorded instances of violence in some areas within the state.”
He, however, added that the incidents were “not as widespread as to affect the general dynamics of the process”.
The State Police Command said 17 persons were arrested during the elections in the state for various offences.
In a chat with The ICIR, the Force Public Relations Officer, Olumuyiwa Adejobi, said the force attended to all cases recorded and reported nationwide.
“Every case brought to our notice officially has been handled. We have more than 400 suspects arrested and investigated in more than 700 incidents. These cases will be prosecuted by INEC according to the EA, 2022,” Adejobi said.
Head of the Election program of the Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth and Advancement (YIAGA), Paul James, said the purpose of electoral violence is to disrupt and undermine the electoral process.
“The general election, especially the 2023 general election, was signposted with electoral violence, vote-buying, ethnic profiling, and voter suppression.
“Election violence is bad because it is broad; I am going to provide details.
“What these politicians do is to disrupt the stronghold of their political opponents.
“We need to begin to review the aspect of the election as we begin to go forward,” James said.
He insisted on punishment for perpetrators of electoral violence to serve as a deterrent to others.