Lagos APC primaries: Two killed, as violence, selective voting mar exercise

From Subair Mohammed, Tunbosun Ogundare, Shola Adekola, Segun Kasali and Lanre Adewole 

After weeks of rigorous and tension-filled political campaigns to elect chairmen and councillors into the 20 local government areas and 37 Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) across Lagos State, primaries which started behind the scheduled time of 9.00 a.m. across all the local government areas were characterised by violent attacks, killings, thuggery and selective voting. At Surulere Local Government Area, voting was disrupted by suspected cultists and thugs, who took control of all the nine wards across the local government area, killing five members of the party as they wielded cutlasses and guns, thus disrupting the voting process. 

According to a voter, who spoke to Sunday Tribune at Ward E, where two people were killed, armed thugs, allegedly led by a chieftain of the Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN) ordered all voters present to vacate the premises. 

He said: “This is cruel. Two persons had been killed so far, whereas every member has his or her preferred candidate to vote for. The exercise was peaceful, but event took a violent turn when armed thugs invaded the venue, wielding guns and cutlasses, and chasing us out of the premises. 

“They killed two persons in the process. We left the premises in order not to get hurt. They have seen the atmosphere as not being favourable to their preferred aspirant, so they felt once the exercise was disrupted, they will have their way to manipulate the process. 

“We know ourselves, but I can tell you that the faces I see around are not APC members. They took over the premises when they had chased away genuine members.”

 When contacted to confirm the death of the two persons killed in the Surulere violent clash, spokesman for the state police command, CSP Muyiwa Adejobi, said he is yet to be briefed on the clash. 

He said: “I have contacted the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) of the area. I am yet to be briefed. I will get across to you once I have been briefed.” 

In Ejigbo LCDA, the atmosphere was calm and peaceful, but voting did not commence until 12.20 p.m. when electoral officers arrived at the Ejigbo mini station venue of the primaries. The faces of armed thugs lurking around the venue sparked fear among a large number of members, who for several hours had been seated and eagerly awaiting the arrival of the electoral officers. 

Reacting to the late arrival of the presiding officers, a chairmanship aspirant, Honourable Peter Ajayi, alleged they left the state party secretariat around 8.00 a.m. and got to the residence of the ward chairman at 8.25 a.m., until 1.00 p.m. 

“I have taken time out to visit the wards. I see joy and eagerness for change in the eyes of the people. They are ready to confront the power that be for a change. As I speak to you (this was around 12.54 p.m.), they have not started the process. The electoral and presiding officers left the party state secretariat around 8.00 a.m. and they got to Ejigbo around 8.25 a.m., but up till now, they are at the residence of the local government area chairman, Alhaji Kasumu, doing what? People are seated there without the officers at hand to kickstart the voting process. They have been intimidating my supporters using the police. They are there at the Ejigbo police station. They have been disenfranchised,” Ajayi said. 

In Ijede LCDA, the exercise was no different, as it was characterised by thuggery and selective voting, as members perceived to be supporters of other aspirants were locked out of the voting venues across the LCDA. Speaking to Sunday Tribune, one of the aspirants, Honourable Oluwatosin Ona- made, alleged that his supporters were disenfranchised from voting at the primaries by armed thugs. He said: “The incumbent chairman, Alhaji Fatiu Salisu, has been disqualified. The news is everywhere, but I was surprised to see his name on the ballot paper. Three aspirants were screened by the party, but it turned four aspirants overnight. How did the name of his vice chairman get on the list?” 

When contacted to confirm the alleged disqualification of Alhaji Salisu, state chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Honourable Tunde Balogun said: “I am on the field monitoring the primaries. I won’t be able to comment on the matter until tomorrow.” 

In Egbeda Akowonjo under Alimosho Local Government Area, the primaries were marred by crises, as supporters of different aspirants engaged in fierce battle. 

Sunday Tribune gathered that trouble broke out at a polling booth located on the Millennium Public School, Karimu Laka Street, when they got wind that a chairmanship aspirant, was making an attempt to rig the election in his favour. A member narrated how what started as a peaceful election turned violent. “We were all assembled outside the school waiting to cast our votes when information reached us that some people were already thumb printing for an unpopular candidate. 

“The information, which created panic, forced some supporters, who were armed with machetes, axes and other dangerous weapons to scale the fence to confront those that were thumbprinting at the polling booth. 

“While many people took to their heels to avoid being hurt, the officials of the Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC) at the booth were whisked away to an unknown destination,” he said. 

It was the same story at the polling booth in the Shasha Community High School at Bammeke, where the supporters of the two major aspirants engaged in open confrontation over accusations and counter-accusations of attempted rigging. 

While some of the supporters were seen to be in possession of dangerous weapons, the election was not allowed to hold following the tense mood. It was learnt that the immediate response of the men of police from Afonka Area prevented any serious skirmishes. 

In Ward A in Isale Oja area of Agege, voting started around 10.30 a.m., with the incumbent chairman, Comrade Ganiyu Egunjobi, casting his vote at St Saviour Primary School, Agege, around 11.50 a.m. 

Speaking to newsmen on the turnout of voters shortly after casting his vote, Egunjobi said: “You can see the massive turnout of my supporters. This is APC, we are all one family. I am optimistic about winning this election.” 

As of 1.00 p.m. on Saturday, members of APC were still awaiting officials of the party and that of the LASIEC at Ijaiye Ojokoro Senior High School, Ijaiye, which served as a major venue of the primaries under Ijaiye Ojokoro LCDA, accreditations were still ongoing as at 1.00 p.m. It was gathered that only the supporters of a particular aspirant (name withheld) were those being accredited officially by the party. The source explained that the supporters of other aspirants had already been told not to bother coming for primaries except they had changed their minds to go along with the party’s favourite. The sources concluded that they were gathered at the centre as a way of fulfilling all righteousness. 

“If we don’t do this,” one of the sources said, “people will say APC did not do primaries to pick their candidates for the election and we don’t want that.” 

However, many of the party members and supporters remained at the venue as of 1.00 p.m. They said they would wait as the electoral officials would still come. Some were also seen writing names in a sheet of papers while some were sharing soft drinks and sausage rolls with people they could recognise. 

Some of them told Sunday Tribune, who monitored the exercise at the centre that a chairmanship aspirant sponsored the soft meal for his supporters because they had stayed for up to three hours or more. 

The government security agents, comprising the police officers and officers from the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) were also on ground to curtail possible break down of law and order. In Itire-Ikate LCDA, armed thugs suspected to be loyal to the incumbent chairman of Itire-Ikate Local Development Area, Mrs Akinyemi Obe, allegedly snatched ballot boxes meant for the primary election in the council area. 

Sunday Tribune gathered that the suspected thugs also stole the phones of the Returning Officer for the LCDA, Lateef Ibirogba, a former Commissioner for Information and Strategy in the state. The violent situation disrupted the primary election process in the council as Ibirogba has returned to the Acme Road Secretariat of the party to report to the party leadership. 

 

Why primary election was bloody —Oki

Meanwhile, a former factional chairman of the APC in Lagos State, Honourable Fouad Oki, has reacted to the bloodletting trailing the party’s primaries, saying his predictions came to pass, because the leaders of the party paraded questionable democratic credentials. In a lengthy letter weeks back, he had warned of consequences if internal democracy would not be allowed to govern the process. He copied the letter to major stakeholders of the party in the state and at the national level. Oki also called for the cancellation of the exercise and that it be repeated, with a level-playing ground yielded to party members. 

“Let party members choose their representatives,” he enthused, in an interview with the Sunday Tribune. He traced the widespread crisis to a provision in the election regulation which mandates the declaration of winners of chairmanship election at the state headquarters, after tying up result at local government collation centres. This provision is seen as a ploy to shortchange unwanted winners by party leaders. The result for the councillorship election is to be announced at the ward level. 

Quoting Oki: “It is a sad day for democracy in Lagos State, but I am not surprised, because I saw it coming and warned in my second letter. I am a member of the party, but not a member of the caretaker charade, handling the exercise. I tried to remind them that you cannot continue to do things the same way and get a different result. This election has soiled the democratic credentials they are parading. 

“The membership register was not available for the exercise. Party members were asked to vote with the slip given them during the registration exercise, which has not been approved by the national leadership in Abuja. The last exercise has not been cleaned up. No register to establish the slip. No party membership register for accreditation. 

“The only way out is to reconduct the exercise and al- low level-playing ground.” 

When contacted, spokesperson of the ruling party, Honourable Oluseye Oladejo, said “it will be hasty to comment on the primaries for now as the available information is sketchy.

 

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