By Hamza Idris, Maiduguri
housands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Borno State last Saturday used their votes during the presidential elections to voice their anger against the Nigerian Federal Government.
Aged men and women, nursing mothers, the sick, the disabled and thousands of youths thronged out of their rooms and tents in about 13 IDP camps and defied the scorching sun until they cast their votes in favour of the All Progressives Congress (APC). “We detest the PDP (Peoples Democratic Party) and anyone associated with it,” said Mato Musa, an IDP from Bama, whose wife and two children were killed at the height of the Boko Haram crisis.
“Today is our day and we would make sure that PDP is forgotten in the annals of our history, we would vote them out with our permanent voters’ card (PVC). We are going in the direction of Borno State government which has been shouldering our responsibilities during this trying moments,” Musa said.
Bintu Mallam, a mother of four from Gwoza said her dream was for the PDP to get zero votes in Borno State. “We have no reason to support the PDP led government which forgot about us at our time of need. We have lost a generation so far and we cannot give them another chance,” she said.
Saratu Bukar, a nursing mother who was seen undergoing screening at the gate of one of the IDP camps said she left her place beside a hospital bed where she was taking care of her son in order to vote. “Yes, I have to vote for another party because I need change. Nurses at the Specialists Hospital here in Maiduguri said I should not come, but I insisted on coming to vote because I want to make sure that the future of my little son is guaranteed and I believe my vote will give this to me,” she said.
The turnout of the IDPs for the presidential election was remarkable.
While it was easier for those living in camps such as the Yerwa Girls Secondary School, Government College Maiduguri, NYSC Camp and Arabic Teachers College, also in Maiduguri, to get accredited, thousands of others who live with extended family members and acquaintances in Maiduguri and surrounding suburbs had to trek long distances to designated polling centres.
For those who lost their temporary voters card (TVCs) and their names could not be traced, they all thronged polling centres in solidarity with those that were qualified to vote.
Youth vigilantes, also known as ‘Civilian JTF’ also took part in providing security, a development which ensured a rancor-free exercise. Though the presidential election took part in all parts of Nigeria, there was exceptional attention given by both local and international media and observers to Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states. Though it is believed that low turnout notwithstanding, voting pattern of people from these areas will tell a lot on the acceptability or otherwise of the PDP-led federal government.
The Boko Haram insurgency which killed many and devastated the economic capacity of others had displaced over one million people from across the 27 local government areas of the state. These are the people that are taking refuge in Maiduguri. Few months ago, there was doubt as to the possibility of holding elections both in Borno and neighboring Yobe and Adamawa States on the grounds of security even as political analysts believed that votes from these areas would not be undermined by any serious politician because they can make a great difference.
The promises made by Jonathan of rescuing Borno’s towns and villages as well as others in Adamawa and Yobe in collaboration with regional armies from Cameroon, Chad and Niger was actually achieved as places like Gamboru-Ngala, Bama, Gwoza, Abadam, Damasak, Kukawa, Marte, Dikwa, Mafa and fringes of Konduga, Damboa, Biu, Chibok; as well as Mubi, Michika, Hong, Gujba and Gulani, among others, were recaptured. Though the residents couldn’t go back to their homes because of other factors, they were allowed to vote at the IDP camps where they voted.
Indeed, the PDP suffered heavy losses in Borno State in both the presidential and national assembly elections, despite the elaborate promises made to President Jonathan by his party’s stakeholders during the presidential rally in the state. There are 1,799,669 registered voters in the state but only 515,008 were able to cast their votes. This is understandable because some voters have relocated to other climes in search of peace while others have been killed or maimed by the Boko Haram. But out of the total number of votes cast, the APC got a whopping 473,543 while the PDP got 25, 640, which is less than six percent of the total votes.
A look at the pattern of voting revealed that there was protest voting against the PDP by people from ravaged communities. Weekly Trust gathered that APC’s landslide victory in Borno came after elaborate support from Governor Kashim Shettima and members of his cabinet who strenuously ensured that the needs of the IDPs were taken care of. Long before the elections, locals who were trapped in various communities were rescued and those that fled to Chad, Cameroon and Niger were all brought back home.
Speaking on why they did not favour the PDP, the Secretary to the Borno State Government, Ambassador Baba Ahmed Jidda said the people of the state feel it is payback time. He said the Federal Government under Jonathan was indifferent about the plight of the Borno people until when elections drew nearer. The surviving people of Borno, therefore, took advantage of the presidential election to contribute their votes in order to boot Jonathan and the PDP out of power.
Weekly Trust learnt that when the election results were announced in favour of the APC, the IDPs in Maiduguri joined thousands of others to celebrate the outcome. Restaurants offered free food, tricycles free rides and Governor Shettima also paid a thank you visit to most of the camps. He also assured that reconstruction of destroyed communities will commence very soon, assuring that the safety and security of the people is guaranteed under the APC government from top to bottom.
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