Reducing Lagos Elections Into A Coup D’Etat By Thugs

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By

Hon. Rahman Owokoniran

Another charade, called the elections of Governor and State Assembly legislators, happened last Saturday, 18th March 2023.

How do we pray for a better tomorrow after subjecting Lagosians to that brazen daylight robbery or the civilian version of the takeover of our state by armed gangs, with authorities collaborating in manipulating the election process?

The Governor of Lagos State is an incumbent Governor from a clique that had occupied the state for about 24 years. Thus, the vote on the 18th was either a vote-of-confidence or a vote-of-no-confidence. His performance should have spoken for him like that of Governor Seyi Makinde in Oyo State, which happened in a free and fair environment.

Either we accept it or not, INEC announced a different result for this selection process. Well, silence means consent whether or not you participated in the disruption. The truth needed to be told that you cannot build something on nothing. Election in a democracy is meant to be an expression of the people’s freedom to elect people into offices to represent or speak for them. Where such positions are taken by force or through coercion, it is just as good as a military coup d’etat. Only that, in this case, it is a civilian coup. What was meant to be a simple and peaceful process turned out to be a very complex, brutal show of force, whereby an average of 20 thugs, not registered as voters, mounted guards around polling units. These thugs were harassing voters to vote for a particular party or leave without voting. In polling units where they lost control to influence voters, they waited until votes were about to be counted; and they then disrupted the process, either by snatching the ballot boxes or burning the ballot paper.

Despite the fact that voting did not take place in so many units, results were still released by officials.

Also, INEC and government knew early enough to have made the day of election free from all encumbrances. Instead, they allowed traditional rulers to fix Oro cult rites, that curtailed women’s right to move freely on the Election Day. The traditional rulers gave notice of the rites within one week to Election Day. Neither the police nor INEC addressed the security issues connected to voters sharing the same space with the toxic environment. All these were intended to suppress votes by preventing certain groups from participation; it controlled the process to the advantage of a particular party.

If Lagos is tolerant of this, I dare say that Lagos will remain in bondage for several years to come.

We can continue to fool ourselves that the situation is under control; but that is so far from the truth. We cannot generate enough revenue locally to overcome our economic crisis. That is why it is taking forever to complete most of our infrastructural projects. And we cannot continue to borrow money to sustain our needs. We need to build trust to encourage foreign investors to partner with our country to build our economy. In order to build the trust, we need a stable political environment.

Political stability can only be sustained by a thriving democracy, which is nurtured by a peaceful, free and fair electioneering process. Now, if you cannot honestly say that our two 2023 elections were conducted in an atmosphere that was peaceful, free and fair to all the parties and voters at large, where do you think our economy is heading. On the other hand, the desperate government installed will have to look inward to scramble for resources to continue to sustain itself in office. That is what tyrant governments do. They bleed the oppressed to suffer for the consequence of their misrule.

The 25th February election lacked integrity because INEC officials, from top to bottom, violated their agency’s own regulations and electoral laws.

This 18th March election completely sidelined the people conducting polls in an atmosphere only comparable with a war zone. Consequence was that the turnout was less than 40 percent of the previous elections. Just to think that the previous election had about 10 percent voter turnout.

If you add APC and PDP’s presidential results, you have 1.15 million. At the governorship, the figure comes to 1.02 million for the two parties. With the voter apathy characterising the governorship election bringing participation to about 40 percent of the presidential election, from where did this high figure come?

A chaotic and unfair process that saw less than 4 percent of the registered voters participating can hardly be regarded as a healthy democratic environment. Most people abandoned their civic duties because they lost trust in INEC and believed that their votes would not count. Others were afraid of government, particularly the security agencies and INEC inaction to the threat from gangsters and thugs harassing voters of different ethnic groups in communities across the state.

Bottomline?

Anyone selected in such a blatant violation of INEC’s electoral rules, egged on by a rampaging army of thugs, will become nothing but a liability to the state.

 

HON. RAHMAN OWOKONIRAN IS PDP SOUTH-WEST ZONAL SECRETARY

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