At last, the 2011 elections kick off

THE PUNCH Newspaper

Despite the outcry that followed the postponement of the National Assembly election which would have kick-started the 2011 elections last week, many eligible voters came out on Saturday for the rescheduled poll. Sunday Punch’s roving correspondents reported that but for the bomb explosion which claimed 25 lives and left many others injured in Suleja, Niger State, on the eve of the election day, it was a case of prepared voters meeting prepared INEC workers At M’M International Airport toll gate, it is business as usual

One would have thought that the ‘no movement’ order by the Federal Government during voting period would mean something to the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos, toll gate concessionaire, I-Cube West Africa. Obviously, the management of the company had envisaged that some Nigerians would defy the order and make use of the toll gate. It therefore made sure some toll collectors were on duty to collect toll and dispense tickets to those drivers who passed through the toll gate. However, unlike on normal days when the toll collectors would stand conspicuously outside the booths and collect the toll, they hid inside the booths yesterday to perform their duty. The power of the press

Voters at the Palace polling unit in Ogbere, Ijebu East Local Government, Ogun State, will for a long time speak about the change that the press can bring to the society.

When our correspondent got to the unit, rowdiness was the order of the day. It was later learnt that a political party had paid most of the voters to vote for the party. To make sure that they did not renege, some loyalists of the party were at the polling table to monitor the voters. Of course, other party agents did not like it and this led to the breakdown of law and order. To make the matter worse, there was not a single security agent in the unit.

As our correspondent was interviewing the angry agents, a policeman, a soldier and another man suspected to be an SSS official, materialised and took charge of the situation.

Soon, everything returned to normal and the party loyalists disappeared and voting commenced. When our correspondent wanted to take his leave, not a few people begged him to stay to make sure that things remained normal. However, he gave his phone number out and asked the voters to call him if trouble started again. As at the time of writing this report, there was no phone call from the unit. Hot pepper soup at polling station A young woman was not intimidated by the huge presence of security officials at the Otazi Playground Polling Unit, Otuoke, Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa State where everybody patiently waited for President Goodluck Jonathan to do his accreditation on Saturday.

Despite the retinue of security officials consisting of bomb experts, armed men of the State Security Service and many police officers, the woman pushed her wheelbarrow loaded with two food flasks containing pepper soup.

“Hot pepper soup,” she shouted, smiling and pushing the wheelbarrow and attempting to beat the security and pass through the dignitaries to the other side of the road.

She kept shouting and moving fearlessly. But one of the security officials immediately ran to her direction to deny her access.

“What are you selling madam,” the official inquired. “Hot pepper soup,” the woman replied immediately. The official examined the content of the food flasks and said, “You cannot pass through here.”

The woman asked the official to allow her pass through the back of the canopy, but he refused and pleaded with her to look for another road. Observing that the security official in mufti was friendly and civil towards her, the woman smiled and turned to go. When asked why she was vending pepper soup on election day, she smiled again, turned to our correspondent and asked, “Why are you taking my picture?” Food hawkers help voters to keep vigil

Despite the ban placed on movement, some people found the time to move drinks and snacks to the voting centres and they made brisk business selling the items to voters who refused to leave the voting centres after casting their votes.

One of the hawkers, who identified herself as Mama Tunji at Unit 11, Erinlu Junction, Ijebu Ode, Ogun State, said that it showed that Nigerians were very sensitive to the plight of other Nigerians.

“Imagine what would have happened if we did not bring refreshment here. Many people could have left, while others would just be miserable. You have to praise us,” she said. Racing for life There was a replica of formula one on Saturday when a male supporter of the Peoples Democratic Party in Oyo State started driving a motorcycle recklessly across some polling units in Sabo Tara area of Ogbomoso North.

Many of the voters couldn’t explain the reason behind his action even after he parked the bike marked LAGOS: QS 465 EKY at Ward 10 to the applause of other party faithful.

He was later cautioned by policemen drafted to the ward to maintain law and order.

Civilians take over security Ready to take their destiny in their own hands, residents of Ibadan, Oyo State capital on Saturday formed pressure groups to police their votes themselves.

The trend was observed in most of the areas visited by our correspondent.

But it was more pronounced on Akanran Road, where male residents created roadblocks on the major road.

All vehicles that plied the road were thoroughly searched to ensure that they were not carrying implicating materials.

Journalists who were returning from where Chief Jumoke Akinjide voted were not spared the hassle.

Even, a former Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Chief Richard Akinjide (SAN), and his wife were not spared as the black Toyota Camry car conveying them back from the polling unit was also searched by the men. Prepared voters meet prepared INEC At Aso Primary School, Mararaba, Nasarawa State, the story was the same as prepared voters met prepared INEC workers. The voters, who left one after the other as soon as they were accredited, came back before noon for the voting proper.

In Aku Village and Masaka, it was the same enthusiastic voters who came out in their hundreds for the exercise. At Karu Site, in Abuja, the story was not different. One thing that would gladden the hearts of Jega and those working with him was the fact that voters fulfilled their promise to return in their hundreds for the exercise after it was cancelled last week. “I told you last week that we would be back for this exercise. Now, we have fulfilled our promise and we are happy that there was no molestation or any incident of ballot snatching,” said Miss Vivian Ono.


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