The Lagos State governorship election has come and gone, but its aftermath, intrigues, horse-trading, and most significantly, the ethnic slurs that dominated the election, would remain indelible for years to come.
Observers say the state, despite its cosmopolitan nature, had not witnessed the most divisive and calumnious campaign in its recent democratic experiment.
This was the fallout of the February 25 presidential election when the Labour Party triggered a great upset by defeating the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, on his home turf by about 10,000 votes.
But the presidential election was over and the next battle was that of the state as Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu battled to retain his seat for the next four years. However, the shock of February 25 triggered a groundswell of tension and anxiety. It was clear to members of the APC that the Obidients, as LP supporters are called, if allowed, were bent on repeating the February 25 result by displacing the ruling party.
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Suddenly, the LP candidate, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour’s profile rose drastically as the potential candidate to displace the incumbent and end the 20-year reign of Tinubu’s hegemony in Lagos.
The governor quickly upped the ante in his electioneering. Despite having the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Jide Adediran, popularly called Jandor, to contest with, Sanwo-Olu never saw any formidable opposition in his quest to win a second term.
But with the outcome of the February election and the rising profile of Rhodes-Vivour strongly believed to be getting the backing of the non-indigenes, especially the Igbo, tension became high and the public was awash with the narrative of an attempt by the Igbo to take over the state.
Truly, Lagos has been a home to many ethnic nationalities, including the Igbo. It was described as a melting point for all ethnic nationalities, all living in harmony with their host communities.
The Igbo have particular dominance in many parts of the state and markets through their trading activities, especially in places like Ladipo, Ojo, Akere spare parts market, Agidingbi spare parts market.
On the D-day, the social media was bustling with reports of disruption of voting, ballot paper snatching, killing and intimidation of voters.
“I was told specifically not to come out, that I should go back to my state in the South East to cast my vote,” a resident of the state, an Igbo man, said as he narrated his experience in his Oke Afa residence along Osodi-Isolo.
In other areas such as Ikeja, Amuwo-Odofin, Ajeromi-Ifelodun, Mushin, Kosofe, Shomolu, Eti-Osa, cases of violence and voters’ suppression were reported.
Another resident reported how some people in a community in Ikorodu started announcing publicly that anyone not ready to vote for the APC should stay indoors on the day of the election.
“This was because during the presidential election, the APC scored 107 votes while the LP scored 99 votes. They felt it was too close and it was better they warned those Obidients not to come out. This was what led to apathy in that area,” the resident said, pleading not to be named.
While there were skirmishes in many polling units as reported by collation officers for the 20 local governments, the exercise was peaceful in many others as well, even as the government and the police said the claim of widespread violence was not substantiated.
At the collation of the governorship election at the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) office in Yaba, a collation officer for Ibeju-Lekki Local Government Area of Lagos State narrated how the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) machine was destroyed in the governorship and House of Assembly elections.
The collation officer, Professor Babalola Bamiji of the University of Lagos, while giving a summary of the results of the elections, said the APC won the local government with 19,369 to defeat the LP with 3,785. However, 899 votes were rejected, according to him. He said there were cancellations of votes due to the disruption of the elections in some wards.
“We had destruction of BVAS, which disrupted the election in polling unit 21. In polling unit 025, Community Primary School, Abijo, ballot boxes and ballot papers were burnt,” he alleged.
Another collation officer for Eti-Osa said, “We had great incidences in Osodi-Isolo. Someone died and a presiding officer had a fractured leg. In all, we had cancellations in 35 polling units due to disruption, over-voting and violence.”
Daily Trust on Sunday reports that at the end of the collation, the Returning Officer for the governorship election, Prof Adenike Oladiji, declared Governor Sanwo-Olu of the APC winner with 762,134 votes to defeat his close rival, Rhodes-Vivour, who polled 312,329, while the candidate of the PDP, Abdul-Azeez Olajide Adediran came third with 62,449 votes.
Many political pundits said the outcome of the poll was predictable following the collapse of the merger between LP and PDP. Our correspondent gathered that several talks were held by leaders of the PDP and LP, including a former deputy national chairman of the PDP, Chief Olabode George, who earlier endorsed the LP candidate, but they could not get either of the candidates to step down.
Daily Trust on Sunday reports that a statement purportedly signed by a media aide to the state PDP chairman, Mr Phillips Aivoji, announced a merger between the two opposition candidates, but it was learnt that Jandor did not agree to the deal.
The outcome of the election also saw Sanwo-Olu winning in local governments the APC lost to LP during the presidential election, except Amuwo-Odofin. The local government areas are Eti-Osa, Ikeja, Ajeromi-Ifelodun, Kosofe, Oshodi-Isolo, Alimosho, Ojo and Somolu.
However, there was a mild drama during the collation of the results when the Labour Party chairman, Dayo Ekong, walked out of the collation centre.
Before staging a walkout, she demanded the cancellation of the election, saying it was marred by violence, killings and intimidation of voters.
“This election is a sham,” the LP chairman declared, and accused the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Mr Olusegun Agbaje of failing the youth.
“Mr Agbaje, you have failed the youth, you have failed the masses,” she said, adding, “people died, they were disenfranchised. The Labour Party rejects all these results, and as a result we demand the cancellation of this election.”
But the REC said the allegations by the LP chairman were false, even as he insisted that no REC could influence the outcome of any election.
Agbaje said, “She (LP chairman) said many people died, but she did not even give us one name of those that died. The police have confirmed that nobody died during this last weekend’s election in the state. So all the allegations she has made that Agbaje does not like the youth are not true. Agbaje rallied heads of departments and electoral officers to mobilise youths to come and register. We did 88 per cent collection in Lagos State, it has never happened before and many youths collected their permanent voters cards. So I don’t know in what area Agbaje does not like the youth in Lagos State. That is also a fallacy.”
However, Mr Fouad Oki, a chieftain of the APC who acted as the agent, dismissed the allegations by the LP, saying the outcome of the election showed that Lagosians believed in the APC and the government of the day.
“I want to assure Lagosians that our party would continue to strive to deliver what it promised us,” he said.
On the call for cancellation, Oki said, “You should expect that when you fail due to your ill-preparedness, you always want to put your failure at somebody else’s doorstep; that is what the Labour Party has been doing.”
Meanwhile, the PDP governorship candidate, Dr Abdul-Azeez Adediran, who came third in the election, said the outcome did not reflect the strength of the party.
Adediran said, “Everybody in Lagos saw what happened and knew what happened in the street of Lagos.
“There was voter suppression everywhere, intimidation, harassment, violence. Some people were killed while many others were harmed in the process of trying to express or exercise their franchise.”
Amidst the ethnic dimension and campaign of calumny during the election, observers said the government had a lot to do in calming frayed nerves.
A socio-political group, Every Lagosian Matters, called on the state governor to reconcile all interest groups.
Amidst the ethnic tension caused by the recent elections, the group, through its team leader, Kenneth Ibe-Kalu, urged Sanwo-Olu to reconcile and harmonise all interest groups, with a view to galvanising Lagosians for the task ahead of building a greater Lagos.
“We further call on the governor to always see himself as the father of Lagos State and Lagosians, while looking into grey areas that have been the source of agitation, with the aim of ameliorating them,” he added.
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