Prospective Voters

26.02.2023 news REPORTER’S DIARY: Lagos Polling Unit Where Party Agent Bought Votes With Alcohol

Published 26th Feb, 2023

By Opeyemi Lawal

Yesterday, I was hopeful like you, dear Nigerian youth. It was my first chance at making my country proud and contributing directly to nation building.

I arrived at my polling unit in Shomolu, Lagos, at 8:10 am. The three Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) officials assigned to my polling unit were pasting the voter register when more voters began to join us.

It was a long and torturous wait as we waited for what could be, perhaps, the most important civic exercise to get started. My country was worth the stress, so I waited with other voters.

READ ALSO: Elections Rescheduled in 141 Bayelsa Polling Units

Voters at Opere/Fatau-Ade polling unit, Shomolu, Lagos.
Voters at Opere/Fatau-Ade, Shomolu, Lagos. Photo credit: Opeyemi Lawal/FIJ

More adults than young people trickled out of their homes with the first ray of the sun. They hung around, chatted and discussed a lot of things, from the most important to the most mundane. They were careful, however, to be apolitical as they discussed in hush tones.

Party agents moved stealthily to hush empty promises into voters’ ears and handed them slips of white paper. Some of them nodded and assured the agents of doing their bidding, but others politely refused. The few young people who were present were excluded. We were avoided like plagues.

Behind my polling unit was the Oluwadare street, where young men challenged themselves to soccer. Just a few more yards ahead was another polling unit where voting commenced early.

Young men playing football near the polling unit
Young men playing football. Photo Credit: Opeyemi Lawal/FIJ

Yomi, one of the young men who stood to watch the game, told me he wasn’t participating in the elections because INEC had disenfranchised him.

“I registered for the elections but could not get my PVC,” he told FIJ. “I was disenfranchised deliberately by INEC after attempting to collect my PVC twice.”

Another young man told FIJ he was simply tired of the current state of the country and would rather not be a part of the electoral process.

“What’s there to be joyful about? There is nothing motivating. I am simply tired,” he said.

The streets were empty and no security operative was in sight. If anything would have gone wrong, only minimal efforts would be required.

Soon, voting commenced at my polling unit and the atmosphere became tensed. Party agents exchanged constant brawls and were ready to rip off the throats of one another. They argued over everything till their temper went mad.

Voters at the polling unit
Photo Credit: Opeyemi Lawal/ FIJ

One of them, a dark-skinned man representing the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), threatened an All Progressives Congress (APC) agent. “I know what to do,” he said. “Only that I don’t want our polling unit to be canceled. It doesn’t cost me anything, and if you force me to it, I will.”

“It was a selfish bill signed by the president. How could he have signed the bill supporting such into law,” another PDP supporter barked.

It was soon to get messy, as more people arrived and the queue became disorganised. The earlier fangs of anger that had been stoked erupted and a fight broke out.

“I have been here since 8 am. Why should he come and join the queue like that?” An elderly woman questioned angrily.

The rage grew louder and the INEC officials threatened to discontinue the process if the crowd was not organised.

At this time, a man I would later know as Alfa handed out slips of white paper with his signature signed at the back – this was to prevent anyone from presenting a random slip just to get ahead of the queue – to the voters. I had the number ‘53’ and a second phase of the wait began.

READ ALSO: Four Polling Units Share a BVAS Machine in Rivers Community

The Opere-Fatau-Ade polling unit is located at the intersection of the two streets which names it bears. The INEC officials, with the help of residents, had positioned themselves in front of a church that also doubles as a school.

There was no shade for the voters, as the only umbrella served the INEC officials. The choice was either to wait in the sun or return home.

Those who could stay did, while those who could not, especially the young ones, returned home. The adults who waited leaned their limbs on a white car parked close-by.


One of the PDP supporters offered to buy alcohol for those in the queue in exchange for their votes.

“You can pick one bottle from the woman,” he said pointing to a woman whose small kiosk stood at the junction of the polling unit.

Anyone who could assure him of the votes got what they wanted.

“I will give you semo,” he told an elderly resident.

“You sell Malt, right? Take one for yourself and give one to him (another elderly man) and I will pay you afterwards,” he told a seller.

“Are you sure?” A woman who wore the Yoruba iro and buba asked with optimism.

“Yes, if I made the promise, I would fulfill it,” he said

The crowd dwindled slowly. The INEC officials blamed it on the network providers while the voters accused them of sluggishness.

At 1:20 pm, I presented my voter card to the assistant presiding officer and she confirmed my name on the Biomodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS).

“Place your thumb on the transparent opening,” she requested.

I obeyed.

“Something is wrong,” she muttered, but I paid no attention. “Stand straight; let me capture your face.”

I obeyed.

“I can’t verify your face. Are you the one?” She asked.

“Yes, I am the same person,” I responded.

Electoral officers assigned to Opere-Fatau Ade polling unit
Electoral officers assigned to Opere-Fatau Ade polling unit

After trying different angles and making adjustments to my facial position, she said, “Let’s use your finger again and if it doesn’t work, I am sorry you can’t vote.”

This news got me, and I wanted to get it right at all cost. I cleaned my thumb several times and tried again unsuccessfully.

I then asked a question I had dreaded but didn’t want to admit. Was I the only one this was happening to?

“Yes, and that is why I am confused,” said the polling officer. “Perhaps you should wash your face and clean your fingers.”

I instantly rushed to a newly constructed solar-powered borehole next to the polling unit to do her bidding.

When I returned, it only grew worse as she said “your face and your fingers can’t be captured” with a tone of finality.

I stepped away from the crowd and began to ponder on my fate. I remembered how Nyseom Wike, the Rivers State Governor, suffered the same fate. He had sycophants and sympathisers, but I had no one.

All I had were people who murmured their ‘ehyas’ and ‘sorrys’. But I hung around with optimism, hoping for a stroke of luck and, maybe, providence.

“I would try again,” I said. “I have come this far.”

READ ALSO: ‘What’s the Use of BVAS?’ — Nigerians Query INEC Over Alleged Over-Voting in Osun


More people came out of their homes as news spread that voting would end at 2:30 pm, but despite that, only 149 persons out of the 663 registered voters would eventually participate.

At 3:39 pm, two hours later, the polling officer signaled me to come forward. It was another chance to ensure I wasn’t disenfranchised. I re-performed the earlier rites of washing my face and wiping my fingers for the green ink INEC was offering.

My biometrics failed again and my heart sank. She put the camera to my face and her wide grin before her words told me I had switched camps.

A vote for a safer homeland
A vote for a safer homeland

“Congratulations. You’re the last voter,” the presiding officer said.

I collected my ballot papers and moved to the white cubicle which had the stamp of the electoral body. I looked at it and shivered.

Really, the competition is stiff and every man wants his share of the national cake. Sometimes, the price is the blood of the people they swear to protect and not the ink stained with finger prints in front of the choices the people make. At other tines, the price is trampling on rights and disenfranchising citizens for no just cause.

For the citizens, the price might not be as high. It could just be a definite resolve not to stop hoping for a safer homeland.

Published 26th Feb, 2023

By Opeyemi Lawal


Our Stories

Woman Bought N3.8m Tickets for New York Flight. 7 Months After, She’s Still Begging Turkish Airlines for Seats

EXPLAINER: I&E Window Isn’t Naira Devaluation. What Does It Mean?

‘Many Thought Rahmon Adedoyin Would Escape Justice’ — Adegoke’s Brother Reacts to Death Sentence

UBA bank

Lagos Mechanic Strongly Suspects UBA Official in the Disappearance of His N2.3m

Policeman Afolabi Saka Murdered an Innocent Man in Badagry. He’s Now a Free Man in Zamfara

Death in the Shadows: Abandoned Glo, IHS Masts Threaten Lives in Osun, Lagos

TotalEnergies fuel station

N185 at Dawn, N488 by Noon. Reviewed Fuel Prices Hit ‘Lagosians’ by Surprise

Rahmon Adedoyin

FLASHBACK: How Murderer Rahmon Adedoyin Almost Became Ooni of Ife


‘Prices Will Continue to Fluctuate’ — NNPCL Reacts to New Petrol Rates

Oxford International Group

Man Who Invested N10m Can No Longer Reach Oxfordgold Integrated Ltd