On March 16, the chairman of Lagos Motor Park Management, Musiliu ‘MC Oluomo’ Akinsanya, threatened Igbos residents who were not intending to vote for the All Progressives Congress (APC) the state’s governorship election to stay at home.
MC Oluomo who appears to command the militant wing of the ruling APC in Lagos, issued the threat in a viral video.
Criticised by citizens, who also called for his arrest and prosecution for threatening to disenfranchise citizens from exercising their civic right, MC Oluomo in another video on March 17, admitted that though he made the controversial statement, he claimed it was a mere joke.
Rather than investigate the matter, the spokesperson of the Nigeria Police Force, Adejobi Olumuyiwa, also described the threat by MC Oluomo against Igbos as a joke.
“I saw a video of MC Oluomo with one mama Chidinma – an Igbo woman debunking that threat, that it’s not true, it’s just a joke he was making with a particular woman. So, let us take it as a joke, like he said,” Olumuyiwa said while appearing on Channels TV programme.
Meanwhile, the election which was held the following day was marred with violence. Like many other states, Oluomo boys suppressed the voting process in some locations, particularly in Eti-Osa, Oshodi/Isolo and others where the Labour Party defeated the ruling APC during the February 25 presidential polls in Lagos.
In the presidential election, Labour’s Peter Obi defeated APC flag bearer Bola Tinubu in Lagos. While Obi polled 582,454 votes against the former two-term Lagos governor’s 572,606 votes in his home turf.
After the presidential election, supporters of the ruling party took to social media to threaten local officials of the party to “brace up” and work for the party or be sanctioned.
In one of the incidents that marred the March 18 election, thugs in large numbers invaded a polling unit in the Oshodi/Isolo Local Government Area of Lagos to disperse voters, waiting for election officials to commence voting activities.
A similar case involved thugs moving in motorcycles and wearing masks to attack voting areas in the Igando/Ikotun area of the state. Security concerns also lead to the postponement of voting till Sunday for ten polling units in the Victoria Garden City (VGC) around Lekki.
While these were the case in many states where elections were conducted, security operatives never took any proactive step against election violence, a development that jeopardised the threat by the Chief of Defence Staff, Lucky Irabor, that any political thug caught during the electioneering period or on election day would be dealt with.
During the just concluded governorship elections, at least 28 journalists and media workers were attacked, according to a statement released by Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). In most of the cases, security agents either took part in the attack or looked away when attacks were carried out.
Violence has become an integral part of Nigeria’s politics. According to the Human Rights Watch, no fewer than 800 people were killed in three days of violent attacks across 12 northern Nigerian States in 2011 following the emergence of Goodluck Jonathan as president.
About 100 deaths were recorded in 2015 and 2019. This was despite candidates signing peace accords. They also denied their involvement in killings and instructions. In addition, members of the National Union Road Transport Workers (NURTW), an association that collects tolls from commercial road users, have often been exploited by politicians during elections.
The NURTW leadership makes millions from collecting transport taxes from drivers of commercial buses, tricycles, and motorcycles. Additionally, one of the perks attached to holding key positions in the association is the ability to charge politicians to organise thugs who deter the electorate from actively participating in political processes.
Meanwhile those involved in snatching ballot boxes and committing all sorts of voter suppression crimes are hardly arrested and prosecuted. Like in previous years, election malpractices reared their ugly heads in Lagos, Kano, Rivers, Enugu, Oyo, Delta and several other states in the last polls. It was all totally foreseeable, but, as usual, the attitude of the security agencies was one of reaction, not prevention.
As security operatives looked away, the crooked politicians with the knowledge that the police and other law enforcement agencies would only be reactive disrupted elections and vanished.
Recall that INEC had long before now expressed concerns at the attitude of some election-duty security personnel who it accused of sometimes aiding thugs to unleash violence on voters and other electoral stakeholders. Still, nothing was (is) done as politicians continue to subvert the will of electorates in Nigeria.