The February 25 presidential and national assembly elections were like no other, as voters, whose lives were threatened by politically motivated thugs at the polling units, exercised their civil rights, even after surviving killer upheaval from a violent-torn environment. One of the survivors of electoral violence, Bina Efidi, who resides in Ikate, Surulere, Lagos, spoke with SEGUN IGE in an interview, sharing her experience in the election and her perception of the political culture in the residential area.
Q: What was your voting experience like in the Saturday election? How was it like to come back to the polling unit to cast your ballot with injuries?
A: I would say it was disappointing. It was what I never expected going there to perform my civic duty. And the reverse was the case: I came back injured and I almost my life. It was not a good experience, but thank God I got some medical attention after sustaining injuries caused by political thugs. I was taken to the hospital, taken to the church, and then learned that voters had been reconvened. I felt this rage and anger. It has always been my desire to exercise my civil right. I was like ‘I must participate’. I was very serious about getting registered and getting my permanent voter card. I wanted to partake in the exercise and know that I had done my own part. I had my preferred candidate and I wanted to participate in the voting exercise. It seemed that all I went to get there that very day and how I looked up to that day was to sustain a life-threating injury. Look at my face, yet I was determined that I was still going to cast my vote. If I could stand and I had life, I said to myself, I was going to cast my vote. That was how I went back to cast my vote.
Q: What can you say about the political culture of this environment?
A: I had never heard of violence on this street. My polling unit is down my street. I changed my polling unit and it was my first time casting my ballot at the new polling unit. From the testimonies of people, the polling unit had always been peaceful. So I don’t know why what happened happened.
Q: Do you think it was politically motivated, especially because the Labour Party seemed to be gaining grounds in certain areas of Lagos?
A: I wouldn’t say that. I don’t know. When I was there, I wasn’t discussing with anybody. I was only disappointed there was no security personnel on the ground. At least, that would have deterred or prevented the thugs from coming there.
Q: Was the electoral process free and fair?
A: I was injured at the time and I couldn’t really say whether the process was smooth and fair. Voters were dispersed after the shooting and throwing of broken bottles at the polling unit. Later, I got some first aid and then went to the hospital. Coming back there, I only cast my vote and left.
Q: What was the response of residents seeing blood gushing from your face? Everyone was running for dear life.
A: Yes, people were running but there was this particular woman that held me and was applying pressure on the part that was really gushing out blood on my face with her handkerchief. She was the one that took me into hiding. Later, we came out and met some men who took me to a nurse’s place with her. They were supportive.
Q: What immediately came to your mind when you discovered that blood was gushing out from your face?
A: To be sincere, I felt I was dying. I thought I had been hit by a bullet. But only for me to discover my face had been cut by one of the broken bottles thrown by the thugs. After having that feeling, I heard a gunshot. In fact, I was saying my last prayer. “Is this how I’m going to die?” “Is this the end for me?”
Q: Eventually, you came to cast your ballot. For what party?
A: That’s my personal…
Q: What political belief do you have in the country now that Tinubu has been declared winner of the election? Do you think the election was free and fair?
A: I’m not a politician. I am just a normal Nigerian. I just wanted to exercise my right to vote. Whoever comes in and is announced the winner is the will of God. I believe in fairness, truth and justice.
Q: Did you try to call your husband for help during the incident?
A: I didn’t want to put him in trouble. I heard a gunshot. See what has happened to me. I knew they were a dangerous set of people. Calling my husband would be like bringing him into danger immediately. So, I waited to ascertain that they had gone. It wouldn’t be fair or wise that both lives were in danger at the same time.
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