The Presidential and National Assembly elections have come and gone; Nigerians now await the announcement of the results from the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
Prior to the election day, Presidential candidates of the political parties signed a peace accord pledging to eschew violence and promising to work with INEC to ensure a free, fair and credible process.
In his address to the nation, incumbent President and Presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Muhammadu Buhari, assured Nigerians that his government would deliver a violence-free general election beginning with last Saturday’s polls. He made extensive reference to former President Goodluck Jonathan’s famous saying that his political ambition was not worth the blood of any Nigerian and assured Nigerians that he was guided by the same principle.
The acting Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, also gave assurances upon assurances that the police were ready to deal with trouble makers in whatever guise they presented themselves. He assured that the polling units had adequate security to safeguard the voters, the electoral officers and the electoral materials.
Alas, all the promises amounted to nothing more than rhetorics. As across the country, it was tales of violence and death, disruption of the process and harassment of voters.
In Kogi State, a voter was shot and killed. The voter whose identity is yet to be ascertained was shot dead in Dekina Local Government Area during an argument with suspected political thugs.
In Rivers, a former Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the State, Monwon Etete, was shot and killed by unidentified gunmen in his hometown of Andoni.
According to reports, Etete, who had defected to the APC was gunned down while waiting for the commencement of elections.
Also, a PDP agent in the state was shot dead while the election was disrupted in many places. In parts of Bonny and Abonnema Local Government Areas, INEC has declared that elections did not hold due to widespread violence.
In Khana LGA, there were reports of shooting and disruption of the voting process. Ballot boxes were also said to have been snatched.
In Akuku-Toru, one of the places where INEC has said elections did not hold and this was attributed to shooting between men in military uniform and hoodlums, a boy was shot and killed.
Spokesman to the 6 Division, Nigerian Army, Port Harcourt, Aminu Iliyasu was quoted as saying soldiers were shooting in Abennema in reaction to hoodlums who were causing trouble.
A local journalist told PREMIUM TIMES that a boy holding a gun was shot by a soldier. He said; “As the soldier saw the boy with a gun, he just fired a bullet and killed him.”
There were also reports of ballot snatching at Okirika, in Rivers State.
In Ibadan, Oyo State, a teenager identified as Monsuru Hamzat was shot dead by some suspected hoodlums trying to snatch a ballot box.
According to eyewitness reports, the incident happened at Ward 2, Unit 13 and 14 Polling Centre in Ibadan South East-Council area. The eyewitness said the hoodlums came to snatch the ballot box while counting of votes was in progress.
The Oyo State commissioner of Police, Shina Olukolu, told NAN that it was alleged that a former Deputy Governor of the State, Taofeek Arapaja, came to the polling unit located in his family house with some hoodlums to disrupt the process.
“The hoodlums simply identified as Akin and Etiba, who were said to have come in company with Arapaja, fired a shot which hit one Monsuru Hamzat.
“Hamzat was rush to the hospital and eventually died,” Olukolu said.
In Delta State, the Commissioner of Police, Mr Adeyinka Adeleke, confirmed the death of two persons in Amukpe, near Sapele, during the elections.
A source told NAN that gunmen stormed the polling unit at about 12:55 p.m while voting was ongoing and shot the victims who died on the spot.
“They opened fire in a manner with a perceived intent to snatch election materials and some persons who sustained bullet wounds were rushed to the hospital.
“The voters and the Independent National Election Commission (INEC) officials who were around ran for their safety,” he said.
He said that the bodies had been deposited in a mortuary in the area and added that it was not clear whether the hoodlums made away with the ballot boxes.
In Yobe, a voter was said to have been shot death while in Bayelsa, a State House photographer was reportedly shot and killed.
In Lagos, the incidents at Okota and Aguda where thugs chased voters away, beat some and burnt ballot boxes and materials are probably well known to all.
One wonders, where were the police and military when all these snatching of boxes were going on? How come the hoodlums could move about in their tricycle and motorbikes without being arrested by the security men whom Nigerians were told would be on hand to enforce restriction of movements?
More of such sad news would likely unfold as the days go by. So far, thugs loyal to the two main political parties have been mentioned as culprits. In some cases, identifiable individuals whose addresses are known have been named.
Yet and unfortunately too, close to 24 hours after the sad incidents, no government official, and no police personnel has come out to tell Nigerians what steps have been taken or are being taken to arrest the perpetrators of these crimes.
Not even to condole with the families of those who died for no fault of theirs.
Are Nigerians so expendable that they are killed in the performance of their civic duties and the government would not care? What happened to the constitutional right to life? Is it no longer the responsibility of the government to protect the lives of citizens?
It is indeed a shame that we are still dealing with electoral violence of such magnitude. A big shame indeed.