FRIDAY OLOKOR, ALEXANDER OKERE, AFEEZ HANAFI, TOPE OMOGBOLAGUN, GODFREY GEORGE, PERCY ANI, VICTOR AYENI and DAUD OLATUNJI
Widespread voter apathy marred the local government elections held in Lagos and Ogun states on Saturday.
Reports from different parts of the states showed that many voters shunned the polls for lack of interest in the exercise, fear of electoral violence, and lack of faith in the outcome of the election.
In Lagos, the state independent electoral commission conducted the polls across the 20 local government areas and 37 local council development areas of the state.
In the Ifako-Ijaiye and Agege local government areas, presiding officers were seen waiting for eligible voters to arrive for accreditation and voting.
A presiding officer at Ojodu Grammar School 1, Polling Unit 017, Abel Obina, said only seven persons had cast their votes as of 11.15am out of 150 registered voters.
“The turnout is not good as expected. A lot of people are still at home,” Obina added.
The agents of the All Progressives Congress and Peoples Democratic Party at the polling units confirmed Obina’s account.
Another PO at Polling Unit 006, Dairyfarm Nursery and Primary School, Agege; Nobei Austin, told one of our correspondents who visited the area at 12.20pm that only 15 persons out of 99 registered voters had voted.
“We also have issues with the card reader. We have to resort to manual accreditation,” Austin said.
The situation was the same in the Itire/Ikate LCDA of the Surulere Local Government Area where most of the eligible voters in the various councils chose to spend the day relaxing or indulging in recreational activities.
In most streets in the councils visited, youths of the voting age were seen playing street football while major roads were empty due to the enforcement of movement restriction.
Also, many of the polling units were converted to relaxation spots as some party loyalists who made up the bulk of the voters entertained themselves with drinks while waiting for the election to come to an end.
There was a mild drama at Unit 008, Ojodu Primary School, as some youths were seen entangled in a quarrel over sharing of cash given to them by a politician who visited the polling unit to cast his vote.
Trouble started after the money – wads of N1,000 notes – was handed over to a fairly-complexioned slim man on the school premises. The man surrounded by some youths, including women, stormed into a shop opposite the polling unit.
Afterwards, arguments ensued as they could not reach an agreement on the sharing formula.
In Ikosi-Isheri LCDA, traders displayed their wares despite the restriction of movement announced by the police.
In the Isheri area of the Kosofe Local Government Area, electoral officers were also seen waiting for voters to come out.
At Community Hall, Isheri Oke II, Polling Unit 039, it was observed that only a few voters turned out for the exercise.
A presiding officer, Ajayi Anthony, who showed one of our correspondents the list of registered voters, said, “It’s been very slow; many people are not showing up. We have been here since 8 am. It’s been over three hours and just six people have voted, so far. That has been our issue; we had no issue with our card reader.”
A motorcycle rider, who identified himself as Taofeek, said he had no voter card and wasn’t interested in the process of enriching another politician.
While reacting to the development, the Chairman of LASIEC, Justice Ayotunde Philips (retd.), said, “The turnout is very low; unfortunately that is not our problem. It is the political parties that are supposed to talk to their party faithful to come out and vote. And if they don’t work with us to sensitise their people to come out and vote, there is nothing we can do about it.”
The spokesperson for LASIEC, Mr Tope Stephen, said that while the voting was reportedly successful in most areas, there were reports of violence in some areas.
“There was a report of violence in Olorunda LCDA which involved the beating of presiding officers and snatching of ballots; fights broke out at Agbado Oke-Odo LCDA and also in some units in Shomolu, while there were transportation challenges experienced by the commission at Alimosho LGA. These are mere pockets of random attacks which were ultimately curbed by the security units,” Stephen added.
According to LASIEC law, in an election to the office of the Chairman or Councillor, the commission will paste at the state or local government area or and local council development area officers of the commission, a notice showing the candidates at the election and the score and the person declared as elected or returned at the elections.
Stephen said, “The results for today’s (Saturday) election will be collated at the LGAs and LCDAs and released there. With the ease of movement and number of voters today, the results may be out this evening or tomorrow.”
Meanwhile, LASIEC Returning Officer, Mr Olumide Metilelu, on Saturday evening declared APC as the winner of chairmanship election in Ikorodu Local Government.
According to Metilelu, the candidate of the PDP, Mr Hassan Rafiu, had a total of 1497 votes, while Mr Wasiu Adesina of the APC had 4729 votes.
Adesina was therefore declared winner of the chairmanship election in the local government by the returning officer.
“Having complied with the requirement of the law and scored the majority number of votes, Wasiu Adesina is hereby declared elected and returned as chairman of Ikorodu Local Government,’ Metilelu said.
The state chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party said it would be foolery to expect fair and credible results from the local government elections held across the state.
It said many of its members in areas like Oshodi and Shomolu, believed to be hotbeds of violence, stayed away to avoid being attacked by thugs.
The spokesperson for the Lagos State chapter of the PDP, Taofik Gani, also blamed the low turnout of voters for the election on the fear of being attacked or caught up in electoral violence.
But reacting, the APC said the PDP should be blamed for its weakness and incompetence as an opposition party in the state.
“If we had any apathy, it was due to weak opposition. So, when there is ineptitude and incompetence on the part of the opposition, the tendency is there that the ruling party will always have a field day,” the spokesperson for the APC, Oluseye Oladejo, said.
In Ogun State, Governor Dapo Abiodun and the PDP on Saturday traded words over the conduct of the poll, which was also marred by alleged rigging.
Abiodun, who cast his vote at the Ward 3, Unit 2, in Iperu, his hometown, Ikenne Local Government Area of the state mocked the PDP for withdrawing from the election.
But, in his reaction, the state Chairman of the PDP, Sikirulahi Ogundele, claimed responsibility for what it described as “the unimpressive turnout” of the poll in the state.
The state chapter of the APC said it was satisfied with the conduct of the election.
The State Secretary of the Caretaker Committee, Ayo Olubori, added, “Another way of describing voter apathy is to say the ruling party is having an overwhelming acceptance and dominance over others. That is another interpretation of what anybody can call voter apathy.”
Meanwhile, the National Consultative Front has accused political rulers of conspiring against constitutional governance anchored on a just, united, and stable country.
The Media Assistant of NCFront (Public Affairs Bureau), Yusuf Abdullahi, said this in a statement on behalf of its National Secretary, Wale Okunniyi, while reacting to the low turnout of voters during the council elections in Lagos and Ogun states.
According to Okunniyi, the continuous circle of elections in the country without the popular constitutional consensus of the diverse peoples of Nigeria was “a clear exercise in futility and a time bomb for the corporate existence of Nigeria that must be urgently detonated by Nigerians before it’s too late.”