March 20, 2023

Lagos, Nigeria – As Tobi Olayinka got down to vote on Saturday morning in Nigeria’s Lagos state, she took alongside a backpack stuffed with meals and drinks and an umbrella in opposition to the solar.

The 31-year-old first-time voter believed she may make a distinction together with her vote. The Lagosian was decided to stay round her polling middle till the outcomes got here out.

Olayinka is among the many younger Nigerians who received enthused about voting with the emergence of the Labor Social gathering’s presidential candidate Peter Obi, a 3rd frontrunner in what was a two-horse race between large events – the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). and the opposition Folks’s Democratic Social gathering (PDP).

“I had a lot hope that this time round, our future may very well be higher,” she instructed Al Jazeera.

She solid her poll earlier than 10am (09:00 GMT) on February 25 after which settled down in entrance of the closed outlets throughout her polling unit (PU) in Ojuelegba, a well-liked quarter in Surulere Native Authorities on the Lagos mainland.

The counting was anticipated to start after voting ended at round 2:30pm – a second Olayinka was ready for. Folks already ready within the queue had been allowed to vote and in some locations the voting went on until midnight. However she by no means received to see the outcomes of her polling unit, registered by the Impartial Nationwide Electoral Fee (INEC) as quantity 24 of Akinhami/Cole Ward.

30pm [it is a bit more complicated than this. At 2:30 PM nobody was allowed to join the queu anymore, but

Around 1pm (12:00 GMT), a group of men rushed towards her from the junction with Akinhami street. Then she heard a gunshot. She ran for cover.

“I ran faster than I ever had, I flew over flower pots and gutters,” she recounted. Eventually, she hid in a compound where one of the residents opened the gate to allow people to escape the violence.

What occurred subsequent at PU 24 was recorded from a roof terrace throughout the road with a transparent view of the polling sales space, which got here beneath assault from 10 males.

One grabs the desk the electoral officers had sat on and flings it onto the road, scattering all of the paperwork that had been on high, the video exhibits.

One other goes straight for the field with the pink cowl marked PRESIDENTIAL, lifts it up excessive above his head and slams it onto the asphalt, the solid poll papers piling up onto the road. The opposite two poll packing containers get the identical remedy from a 3rd man.

All this does not take greater than 20 seconds. In response to eyewitnesses, the violent group then continued its journey down Akinwande Avenue, ransacking three extra polling items within the space earlier than taking off.

Violence is a confirmed technique in Nigeria – Africa’s largest democracy – to disrupt the voting course of, particularly in neighborhoods that historically vie for the opposition.

Violent teams referred to as “political thugs” have been utilized by the established political events in Nigeria for many years to affect the electoral course of by drive.

If the voting does not appear to go their manner, the candidates mobilize these thugs to raid the polling items. Not solely does it scare folks away from casting their ballots within the first place, but it surely additionally invalidates the ballots of the individuals who do come out to vote.

The electoral physique canceled the outcomes of the 4 polling items attacked in Olayinka’s neighbourhood.

In response to INEC’s knowledge, a complete of 1,950 voters had been registered at these items. And it’s not the one location in Surulere, certainly one of Lagos’s 20 native authorities areas with an estimated inhabitants of 650,000, the place the voting course of was violently disrupted on election day.

On Akerele Avenue, two kilometers (1.2 miles) from Olayinka’s voting unit, about 5 males sporting black masks and holding black pump motion rifles jumped out of a yellow minibus close to the gate of Falolu Street round 2:30pm (13:30 GMT). They fired photographs within the air to scatter the gang as Nigerian and worldwide journalists appeared on.

The masked males took possession of the presidential poll field and destroyed the opposite two earlier than disappearing. Voting at this polling unit with 934 registered voters was subsequently cancelled.

A bit over a kilometer away on Adedoyin Street, there was hardly any signal left of polling stations 35 and 36. Inexperienced shards of glass had been scattered on the road and a great deal of accomplished poll papers lay trampled within the gutter.

The electoral officers had been nowhere to be discovered: they’d fled because the violence began. The voting for Nigeria’s nationwide election went forward, however the voices of the 1,554 registered voters at these two polling items wouldn’t rely.

“An hour in the past we all of the sudden heard a noise,” mentioned a avenue resident who had simply solid her vote and was ready for a good friend.

5 males popping out of a Toyota Sienna and a Corolla and holding bottles, machetes and sticks began focusing on the ready crowd at a polling sales space.

“Bottles flew by the air. Everybody began working and I received harm,” she mentioned, pointing to her heel the place shards left deep gashes.

The boys destroyed the poll packing containers and threw out the papers. They took away the field with the pink cowl marked PRESIDENTIAL.

The witnesses of the violence on Adedoyin Street disagree about which get together the robbers belonged to.

All of them agree on one factor: these had been political thugs despatched by candidates who weren’t pleased in regards to the anticipated end result of the outcomes.

Voters felt helpless as their ballots went up in smoke.

“See how they strip us of our democratic rights,” mentioned a person with a graying beard, shaking his head on the ditch with the crumpled poll papers.

The electoral fee canceled the outcomes of 20 polling items in Surulere due to violent incidents. The entire variety of voters registered at these items was 12,955.

Fred Adoki was on Adedoyin Street when the violence broke out. A few days later, he’s nonetheless shaken from what occurred on his avenue. He was ready to solid his vote in an upbeat temper.

“The gang was a lot. It made me so pleased,” he mentioned. He nonetheless can not consider all of them got here in useless.

“This time I believed I had the facility to make a distinction,” mentioned the 37-year-old. “However now I’m robbed of that. It is so irritating.”

It left him feeling disenfranchised, however he mentioned it is not going to discourage him from voting subsequent time: “I consider we’ve got the facility to make a change.”

Tobi Olayinka, the first-time voter from Lagos, mentioned she is extra decided than ever to make her vote rely.

“It’s too vital. Nothing works in Nigeria. It should not be such a battle residing on this place. We’d like change for this era and for our kids,” she instructed Al Jazeera.

On March 11, Nigeria will maintain one other spherical of elections to elect legislatures and governors for its 36 states, together with Lagos State, the financial capital of Nigeria. Voting may also be held on the polling items the place ballots had been cancelled.

“I’m a really cussed individual. I will be there once more with my backpack,” Olayinka mentioned with a smile.

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