By Seye Oladejo
Again, I congratulate Lagosians for overwhelmingly rewarding the Governor of Lagos State, Mr, Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu and his deputy, Dr. Kadri Obafemi Hamzat, with a resounding victory in the March 18, 2023 election. The result of the election was a recognition of the giant strides of Mr. Governor in all the six pillars of the THEMES Agenda – the development plan of his administration – and the rejection of politics of religion, ethnicity, violence and hate. The cosmopolitan nature of Lagos State and the discernment of the people as well as their resilience were well displayed as Lagosians brushed aside divisive tendencies to vote a clearly popular and performing government back to power.
Many false narratives have been put in the public space by the aggressors in the last election, who have turned round to shed crocodile tears in their bid to play the victim. The elections have been won and lost. It is time for all patriotic citizens to concentrate on building our dear State and, by extension, the nation. But this is not the thinking of the opposition, who have shown that they lack the true spirit of sportsmanship. This conference, therefore, is to review the election and comment on some of the false allegations that opposition parties have been spinning in the media space.
Ethnicism and Religion: Ethnicity, which is anathema to democracy, has never been a factor in the voting pattern in Lagos State. It was introduced and orchestrated by the Labour Party (LP) and its candidate, Mr Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour. His intention was to pitch a section of the populace against another. When he started his campaign, he was Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour. He soon metamorphosed into Chinedu Rhodes-Vivour and, with his mother, was campaigning in areas seen as having heavy Igbo population, adopting Igbo as the language of communication.
The candidate, who does not speak Yoruba, showed his resentment for the people he desired to lead when he retorted that “I don’t think in Yoruba” – in reply to a reporter’s question. His supporters latched on to his body language and disposition to taunt the Yoruba and other Lagosians by proclaiming that Lagos is a no-man’s land. Following the same script, LP presidential candidate Peter Obi campaigned only in markets dominated by people from a section of the country when he visited Lagos.
Mr. Chinedu Rhodes-Vivour played a prominent role in the in the #EndSARS protest, a peaceful action, which became a veneer for the destruction of public and private assets when it was hijacked by hoodlums. Lagos lost many of its cherished assets. The DNA laboratory (the first of its kind in West Africa) was burnt down; the iconic Lagos High Court, one of the most recognizable buildings in Nigeria, was razed. So was City Hall, which was established in 1900. Hundreds of brand-new high-capacity BRT buses, among other assets, were burnt in the orgy of madness from which our dear state is yet to recover. However, it is to be noted that Mr. Chinedu is not the only Yoruba of mixed race in politics. Besides, there are people of Igbo parentage who are very dear to the heart of Lagosians. Many have held positions in the Lagos State Cabinet and Agencies.
ii. Threats and Intimidation: The allegations of threat and intimidation of voters is a typical deployment of the strategy of the aggressor playing the victim. How else do we explain the case of Omatseye Iseli a.k.a Tee Mac, a Labour Party chieftain who went to a polling unit with wild dogs, boasted of his unlawful action, only to jump into the media space the following day to allege intimidation after it was glaring that his party lost woefully in the gubernatorial election. It is on record that, there are 13,325 polling units in Lagos State and there were reports of disturbances in about 130 or one percent of all the polling units. I think that is too infinitesimal for anyone to rely upon to say that the election was not free and fair. In other words, under no circumstance can we say this has invalidated the credibility of the elections.
We also need to state that the false alarm that members of the All Progressive Congress (APC) perpetrated violence during the election cannot be substantiated. The party has loyalists, members and sympathizers in all nooks and crannies of the state. It has no reason to embrace violence. On the contrary, our members were mostly the victims of intimidation and violence. Many are still in hospitals where doctors are battling to save their lives. A few days ago threats and intimidation continued even in post-election era and it was raised to the most unexpected height when, a respected statesman, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu called the Yoruba, “political rascals” who would be handled. If I may ask, who is intimidating who?
There have been futile efforts to discredit the 2023 general elections, with some of the losers and their sympathisers alleging that it is the worst election in the history of the nation. They are trying to turn truth on its head. A comparative analysis of past and last elections will help us to establish the truth. Comparing the last three elections- 2015, 2019 and 2023 and using the leading three political parties, one can safely conclude that the 2023 election is the most credible, freest and fairest. While 29,432,083 and 28,614,190 votes were cast in 2015, 2019, a total 24, 965,218 votes were cast in 2023. The margin of victory in 2015, 2019 and 2023 are 2,571,759, 3,928,869 and 1,810, 206, representing 53.9% in 2015, 55.6% in 2019 and 36.6% in 2023.
What the above numbers say to us is that the BVAS introduced by INEC helped tremendously in ensuring that only registered voters accredited and captured by the machine could vote. The BVAS recorded 88% success rate in the 176, 606 polling units across the nation. BVAS malfunctioned in 9% of polling units and was fixed. BVAS was replaced in 2% of polling units where it malfunctioned. In our view, INEC deserves some applause for this feat. The reforms also ensured that violence was reduced to the barest minimum. It is very sad and unfortunate that 13 deaths were recorded in electoral violence in the 2023 elections; no life should be lost at all. Every death mocks our humanity, but compared to 150 in 2019, 100 in 2015, 800 in 2011, 300 in 2007, 100 in 2003 80 in 1999, we have made some progress. The security agencies should be commended for a job well done.
We commend Security Agents for their conduct during the elections. They were professional, especially in Lagos State, despite attempts by some people to create an atmosphere of fear and violence. The security agencies were prompt in nipping crises in the bud in flash points. They maintained decorum in the face of confrontation in some areas. However, they need to go a step further by curbing the excesses of warmongers and scaremongers desperate to foment trouble in the State. We condemn the post-election hate speeches and fake news still being promoted in various media spaces. May I alert the security agencies by calling their attention to meetings on Twitter Space towards mobilizing unsuspecting people for demonstrations aimed at destroying Lagos State, a replica of the #EndSARS saga.
It should be noted that the general election was held throughout the nation and the law provides for those not satisfied with the conduct of the exercise to approach the court of law as it is done in civilized climes. Any approach contrary to this under any guise should be viewed seriously. Besides, one may need to ask the question, why Lagos? There were videos of people saying in some states that are very far away from Lagos that our dear state is their next target; that Lagos must be taken by all means – crook or hook. We don’t expect them to protect what they don’t value, but we shall never yield the space to them to take the nation back to the years of the locusts. NEVER.
Oladejo is the Publicity Secretary of Lagos State chapter of the All Progressives Congress