By Danladi Alhassan
There were spates of violence and voter intimidation as voters turned out to participate in the supplementary governorship and state elections on Saturday.
Most hit was Kano State where the exercise took place in 28 local governments. However, Gama, a key swing ward in Nassarawa Local Government Area, was badly affected by violence and voters intimidation.
Initially, there was massive turnout of voters and huge crowds of residents in the area, which has about 50,000 of the total of 128,324 voters expected to cast their ballots on Saturday. But later on, hoodlums armed with machetes, knives and other dangerous weapons took over polling units, assaulting observers, journalist and party agents.
Voting were disrupted in some polling units in Gama and Yelwa in Nassarawa and Dala local government areas respectively.
The hoodlums completely took over Gama as soon as the number of security personnel which earlier patrolled the area in the early hours of the day was drastically reduced.
The News Agency of Nigeria reported that the thugs disrupted the electoral process at Suntulma Gama Primary School in Nassarawa Local Government, sending voters away from their polling units.
NAN reported that trouble began at the primary school when the reporters tried to interview some voters who were denied access into the classrooms where there were some polling units.
While trying to escape during the attack, some of the journalists fell on ground and one of them had to take refuge in a mosque. Some voters alleged that they were not allowed to vote as they were chased out of the area.
A resident, Aminu Tijjani, said he went to the primary school to cast his vote at his polling unit but had to return to escape the attack.
“The situation is very bad and this is not how to conduct an election where people or voters are denied the opportunity to vote,” Tijjani said.
Another voter, Sani Abdullahi, said he came to vote as early as 8am, but was scared away by about 10 suspected hoodlums.
The suspected political thugs also attacked reporters in the tension soaked ward.
An eye witness stated that trouble started when the angry thugs challenged one of the reporters later identified as Jerry Nmeribeh, of Authority Newspaper for attempting to take photographs.
In the chaos which ensued, voters, who were standing in line waiting for their turn to vote, ran for dear life before a reinforcement of policemen restored sanity.
In Dala Local Government Area of the state, the state Commissioner for Information, Youths and Culture, Mallam Mohammed Garba was attacked by suspected thugs in the Yelwa Ward.
Garba was one of several monitors of the All Progressive Congress (APC) in Saturday’s supplementary governorship election.
The hoodlums smashed his vehicle while he sustained an injury in his hand as he was rescued by policemen who quickly mobilised to the scene.
“ I’m still at a loss why the opposition would sponsor thugs to attack us. While I was being attacked at Yelwa ward, another set of thugs were attacking our party elder, Alhaji Liti Kulkul, in Dogon Nama Ward also in the same Dala. An election is not a war,” Garba stated.
Also, violence was witnessed in Bichi and Gaya towns as armed youths dispersed voters and thumb-printed ballot papers in favour of particular political parties.
The opposition PDP in the state is also claimimg to be victim of this violence on re-run day. Rabiu Suleiman, the acting chairman of the PDP in Kano, on Saturday called on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to cancel the elections.
“Today, this charade called rerun election was slated to hold in Kano and other states. Unfortunately, what we have in Kano is nothing but a sham. Reports reaching us since yesterday are that thugs have been mobilised by the APC and the Kano State Government to take over all the 208 polling units.
“These thugs are imported from Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna, Plateau and other neighbouring states. These thugs are armed to teeth and posing as the electorate in the localities of the polling units.
“They freely voted with the permanent voter cards that do not belong to them. Some pose as INEC staff within the polling units, while others wear out party (PDP) agents’ tags. Our agents were denied access to the polling unit and most of them were beaten and driven away,” he said.
However, APC was quick to dismiss this claim. Alhaji Abdullahi Abbas, the state Chairman of the APC, said the opposition party ought to have waited for the completion of voting before complaining about the process.
“We expected that the PDP should have waited for the completion of the exercise just like we did. They should take their problems to a competent court of law.
“I want to call on INEC to see to the conclusion of the exercise and we call on security agencies to intensify security to ensure adequate security in the state,” he said..
Idayat Hassan, the director for the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), in reaction to this ugly development condemned Saturday’s violence in these key wards. She said the violence would “raise questions of the legitimacy” of the results.
“Journalists and observers have been intimidated” because of a “win at all costs mentality” from politicians. Democracy is in trouble in Nigeria,” she said.
The original elections a fortnight ago were declared invalid in some areas by INEC because of violence and disruption. Tension was high in states such as Kano, where the supplementary election was basically between the Peoples Democratic Party candidate, Abba Kabir-Yusuf who polled 1,014,477 votes in the general elections, and his All Progressives Congress candidate, Governor Abdullahi Ganduje, who got 987,810 votes. The margin between the candidates is 26,655 votes while 128, 572 votes were cancelled.
By Danladi Alhassan