As the electioneering campaigns for the 2023 general elections peak in Lagos State, the commercial nerve centre of Nigeria, there are allegations of abuse of state apparatus by the state government to intimidate the opposition, Daily Trust on Sunday reports.
The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Mahmood Yakubu, recently disclosed that the commission had tracked 52 incidents since the ban was lifted on campaigns across the country and one of the incidents, he explained, was the intolerance of the ruling party which tended to deny the opposition access to the use of state facilities for their rallies and campaigns.
This is the situation in most states where the party in control tries everything possible to muzzle the opposition and assert its dominance.
Since the electioneering started in Lagos, many residents have had to endure one form of traffic diversion or the other which has impaired movement across the state.
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However, the diversions are said to be made to the advantage of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) during their rallies while the opposition parties are left to manage traffic during their events.
Road diversions for APC rallies
The state government has been diverting traffic for APC rallies in the state since the electioneering started. Roads were closed during the mega rally of the APC presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, on Saturday, November 26, as well as during the campaign flag off of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu for a second term on Saturday, December 3.
Also, a travel advisory was issued for the campaign walk tagged “Ring Out the Vote” by the Lagos APC presidential and gubernatorial campaign team held on Wednesday, November 30.
Traffic was also diverted when the Chairman of the Lagos State Parks and Garages Management Committee, Musiliu Akinsanya, popularly known as MC Oluomo, led a “five million” rally for Tinubu on October 9. Some sections of the busy Ikorodu-Ososun Road, Funsho Williams Avenue, among others, were closed for traffic.
Highlighting the traffic points, the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) advised motorists from Eko Bridge going towards Surulere to pass through the Stadium Bridge to Funsho Williams Avenue and connect to their destinations through Ojuelegba to Lawanson-Itire Road.
For the APC presidential rally held on November 26, there were two statements issued by the Ministry of Transportation announcing traffic diversions.
In one of the statements, the government hinted at a series of traffic diversions for safety and security management purposes.
Traffic was later diverted on Funsho Williams Avenue towards Lagos Island to the express lanes at Barracks Bus Stop for people going to Costain, Apapa, Ijora, Victoria Island, Lagos Island and off to Olumegbon for people going to New Lagos and Surulere areas.
In his explanation, the Commissioner for Transportation, Dr Frederick Oladehinde, said traffic on Funsho Williams/Western Avenue inwards Surulere/Ojuelegba would be diverted to the express lanes/Stadium Bridge at Alaka Bus Stop for people going to Mushin, Palmgrove, Ikeja, Ojota, Ikorodu areas, and off to Bode Thomas and Eric Moore at Iponri Estate for people going to New Lagos/Surulere areas.
Also, vehicular movements on Alhaji Masha Road to Akerele/Shitta Junction and Funsho Williams from Olumegbon Junction to Alaka were restricted “for safety”, as only human traffic was allowed.
While vehicles conveying party members and others with accredited stickers for the rally were provided free parking with access at the National Stadium via Alaka, those from Ojuelegba/Mushin/Palmgrove on Funsho Williams accessed the National Stadium via U-turn at Alaka.
For the APC women’s presidential campaign rally at the Mobolaji Johnson Arena (Old Onikan Stadium), Onikan, Lagos Island, the state government rolled out a traffic advisory to aid the motoring public in navigating their journeys around the axis during the event.
In a statement announcing the diversion prior to the event, the transport commissioner explained that traffic would be restricted between Zone 2 Police Headquarters and Onikan Roundabout from 10am.
He advised motorists making use of Island Club Road by Zone 2 and Onikan to connect their destinations through alternative routes.
He explained that motorists from Victoria Island could make use of Ozumba Mbadiwe Road through Five Cowrie Bridge (Falomo Bridge) to access Alfred Rewane Road to Osborne Road and connect their destinations or go through Bonny Camp to access CMS/Marina Bridge after Independence Bridge (Mekunwen Bridge) and loop it down towards Cathedral Church to link Lagos Island through Odunlami Street to continue their journeys.
He added that they could utilise Force Road beside Muson Centre to J.K. Randle Avenue (Race Course) to Water Board to Old Broad Street to complete their journeys.
He also said that motorists who used King George V Road to link Awolowo Road or J. K. Randle Avenue through Onikan Roundabout should use Turton Street inwards Lewis Street to Sandgrouse or make use of Moloney Street to access Obalende.
No advisories for opposition parties
However, while a traffic advisory was issued for each APC campaign rally, the same privilege was not extended to the opposition.
Senator Dino Melaye who was in the team of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who was in Lagos to campaign during the week, alleged that roads were blocked to prevent people from coming to the rally.
Daily Trust on Sunday reports that Atiku and members of his team had a hectic time accessing the TBS as their convoy maneuvered in the gridlock around the Lagos Island/TBS axis.
Melaye said, “Whether they like it or not, we will win this election. They tried everything possible to frustrate us, they prevented the buses conveying our members and supporters from getting here. They even tried to jam our live programme.”
A member of the Atiku/Okowa Presidential Campaign Council (PCC), Tunji Shele, said, “They attempted to stop the buses coming to pick our people from their various locations. They even attempted to jam the frequencies to be able to speak effectively. Even, they attempted it on Arise TV. They are very mean. We didn’t have any business taking permission from them since we were not using their own ground. We can only take permission from the management of TBS, write to the police and SSS. I think that was just it, and we don’t have the power to block the roads.
“But it is wrong for any government to start blocking roads and causing unnecessary inconveniences to road users. Let Lagosians make up their mind on what they really want because everybody is going through it.”
Shele, a former chairman of the PDP in the state, accused the state government of abuse of office for giving preferential treatment to the ruling party in its activities.
He said, “That is abuse of power. What the state is doing is irresponsible and insensitive to the plight of the people.”
Daily Trust on Sunday observed that neither the transport ministry nor LASTMA provided any advisory when the supporters of the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Peter Obi, on October 1, held a rally tagged “4 Million-Man Walk for Peter Obi” simultaneously in various areas of Lagos State, including, Ikeja, Lekki, Surulere and FESTAC, and LASTMA officials are hardly seen at rallies and programmes organised by the opposition.
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A political analyst, Shittu Abimbola, said incumbent governments were known to be unfair to political opponents in Nigeria.
He said, “It is sad that almost 24 years after the return of democracy our politicians still play dirty politics; abusing state apparatus. Some states are also issuing executive orders on the use of public spaces for campaigns. These are facilities constructed with public funds.”
While alleging that the traffic tactic was not new in Lagos, he urged the opposition to always publicise their requests to various government institutions so the people could hold them accountable when there was a failure in maintaining traffic in the state.
He explained that, “This is not new. Political observers will tell you what the state did whenever President Goodluck Jonathan visited Lagos then. Have you seen such traffic since Buhari took over? It is a way of frustrating the opposition and getting the public against them. LASTMA should not be politicised. The state should care about its people who are enduring the traffic hardship.”
APC dismisses allegation
As of the time of filing this report, there was no reaction from the state Ministry of Transport on the claims by the opposition as an SMS sent to the Deputy Director, Public Affairs of the ministry, Mrs Bolanle Ogunlola, was not replied.
However, the spokesman of APC in the state, Mr Seye Oladejo, dismissed the allegation by the PDP, describing it as an alibi for the failure of their presidential rally.
Oladejo said, “I don’t have to dignify the distraction called PDP with a response. Is this the alibi for their flopped presidential rally?
“I believe they should know by now that no one takes them seriously any more. They’re always in the news for the wrong reasons. Their perennial failures have nothing to do with us as a party.
“The truth remains that they have suffered all-round rejection. If morning still truly shows the day, there will be no prize for predicting PDP’s nationwide defeat. We refuse to join issues with a party on a free fall.”