Thousands of Odua Peoples Congress and the Coalition of Concerned Nigerians members loyal to the Peoples Democratic Party took to three major roads in Lagos on Monday demanding the sack of the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Attahiru Jega.
The protesters, who wore T-shirts with PDP inscriptions and pictures of President Goodluck Jonathan, started gathering in front of the Federal Road Safety Commission near the old Lagos Toll Gate on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway as early as 7am.
From there, they proceeded on foot and in about 100 buses to the front of the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Surulere, causing traffic snarl on the ever busy Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Ikorodu Road and Funso Williams(Western) Avenue in the city.
The demonstrators, who wielded broken bottles and knives, also displayed banners and posters calling for Jega’s removal.
They destroyed outdoor adverts of All Progressives Congress candidates on the street lights along the highways.
A LASTMA official claimed that some of the demonstrators stormed their Anthony office, chased them away and released many impounded vehicles to their owners.
The National Coordinator of the OPC, Chief Gani Adams, led the protest which had some popular actors and musicians such as Zack Orji, Alex Usifo, Paul Obazele, Obesere and Saheed Osupa, participating.
The protest forced motorists to seek alternative routes. Many passengers, most of whom were rushing to their respective offices, had to disembark from commercial vehicles and trekked long distances to escape the snarl.
The absence of Lagos State Traffic Management Agency officials from the highways emboldened the confidence of the protesters, some of whom drove against traffic and others on the restricted BRT lanes.
Policemen from the state command and soldiers attached to OP MESA provided security for the demonstrators who distributed Jonathan’s campaign leaflets to passers-by and motorists stuck in traffic. The leaflets contained the ‘‘achievements’’ of Jonathan.
Some of the protesters gave out fliers that bore the ‘‘sins’’ of Jega.
One of the fliers read, “Over five million people have yet to obtain their Permanent Voter Cards in the South-West; over 2.5 million persons in the South-South and two million in the South-East while Jega claimed to have recorded 90 per cent distribution in the North, despite the high level of insecurity in the North-East.
“There is illegal registration of underage voters in the North, registration of nationals of Chad, Niger Republic and Cameroon. Over one million PVCs have been recovered from them by security agents and yet Jega cannot give an explanation.
“It is obvious that Jega is playing a well scripted Northern agenda as he has positioned northerners to the most sensitive INEC positions .
“The creation of over 30, 000 polling units now termed voting centres in the North against the South-West and awarding the contract of sensitive INEC materials such as PVCs and ballot papers to foreign companies traced to APC leaders.
“Plotting to create chaos and unrest in Nigeria by insisting on holding elections on February 14 when he was aware that 34 per cent of Nigerians in the South-West had yet to obtain their PVCs.”
Some of their placards read, “Jega must go”, Jega pushing Northern agenda.”
Adams, who addressed the demonstrators at the entrance to the Teslim Balogun Stadium, said that Jega would have embarrassed Nigeria if the elections had held on February 14.
He said he had while expressing his displeasure with Jega’s handling of the election process to Jonathan, informed him (the President) of the “peaceful protest.”
Adams said, “We just had a peaceful protest to register our displeasure with Jega on the way he has been hadling the preparations for this important elections. We also made our position known to Jonathan.
“Jega should proceed on terminal leave and let a credible Nigerian be appointed to conduct the elections.”
Usifo, who also spoke, said, “It’s all about the concerned citizens of Nigeria. Some citizens believe that Jega has already compromised. On February 14 when he said he was ready for the elections, he was not because many registered citizens had yet to collect their PVCs.
“I sincerely believe that his professorship is even questionable. If as a professor he does not know what he is doing, then I don’t know who will help us. We don’t want violence.”
He hinted that another round of protest might take place if the situation did not improve.
Obazele also accused Jega of pursuing a northern agenda and attempting to disenfranchise voters in the South.
Orji, in a brief interview with one of our correspondents, dismissed claims that the protesters were paid by anyone.
He said, “We believe in the president that he is a credible person for this moment. We don’t want anybody to come and set us back for decades. We have not been paid to organise this.
“We just believe in Mr. President because we have been following his excellent track record.”
Some of the affected motorists and commuters condemned the protest, saying it should have been on a Monday.
One of the motorists, Aramide Olayinka, said she spent close to three hours from Ketu Bus Stop to Palmgrove.
She said, “Monday should not have been chosen for such a protest. They should have done so on a weekend, But if they must, they should have communicated it properly to the members of the public. You can see that I am already late for work today (Monday). ”
A commuter, Lara Ogunbanke, said that she had not been able to meet up for a job interview.
She said, “What these people are doing is very annoying. I have an interview at Jibowu and I left my home as early as 9am but I am still in the traffic and it is 11am.
“I had to alight from the bus I was in and treked. I am indifferent to politics but even if I were to vote, I definitely would not vote for the PDP because of this rubbish. Why would they pick a Monday? Why not Saturday or Sunday?”
Another commuter, James Nzewi, said the protesters should have left the BRT lane vacant so that the effect of the traffic would be less.”
Reacting, the APC National Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed, said the protest was in line with the N9bn allegedly given to the OPC and the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra by Jonathan to disrupt the elections.
Mohammed wondered why the OPC embarked on such a march less than four days after Adams and other OPC leaders met with Jonathan at the State House, Marina.
He said, “As we said earlier, Jonathan has bribed ethnic militia groups with N9bn to ensure that the polls were scuttled. The OPC protest was funded by Jonathan and this is part of the grand plot we spoke about.”
The Publicity Secretary of the Lagos State chapter of the APC, Joe Igbokwe, said in a statement that it was unfortunate that Jonathan was using “armed thugs” to intimidate Lagosians.
Igbokwe wondered why APC adverts were vandalised since the protest was against Jega.
He said, “No one should be surprised at what is happening today because it reflects the last acts of a dying junta desperate to use every means to remain in power.
“It is obvious that Jonathan and the PDP have given up hence the open and bizarre sponsorship, bribery and inducement to militia groups through generous dollar bribes and contract bazaars, for the purpose of creating enormous crisis and confusion in a bid to scuttle the coming elections.
“We see the present actions of OPC as spurred by the multi-billion naira contract that was recently given to their leaders by a desperate Jonathan as bribery to secure such hatchet jobs they are doing at present.
“Nigerians should note that the action of the hired mercenaries like OPC on the streets of Lagos, where they are visiting destruction on APC campaign materials, is an act of war, as the intended purpose is to provoke monumental crisis that will stop the elections through widespread violence that may lead to war.
“The PDP is desperate to plunge the country into such war that will make both Rwanda and Burundi a child’s play considering the mix of the country’s population. We see the desperation of the PDP to remain in power when it is obvious that Nigerians don’t want it, as a clear and present danger and we alert the world to hold the PDP responsible for any breach of security in Nigeria today.”
After the leaders and actors addressed the media and left, gunshots rent the air, causing further confusion in the area.
However, our correspondents could not ascertain if the gunshots were fired by the heavily armed policemen or members of the OPC.