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Nigerians hold scattered protests over disputed election

Nigerians hold scattered protests over disputed election

A women's group demanded the arrest of Nigeria's top electoral official while the country's labor union head denounced rigging and violence in last month's polls, but plans by politicians to turn May Day celebrations into opposition rallies were largely ignored Tuesday.
On Monday, Nigeria's police chief had promised to use tear gas and any force necessary to prevent unauthorized demonstrations.
Nigeria's opposition had called for widespread street protests after the governing party announced a landslide victory in federal and state polls held April 14 and 21. The elections were criticized by thousands of domestic and international observers, who recorded widespread irregularities and scattered violence.
The vote was supposed to be a democratic watershed, marking the first civilian-to-civilian transfer of power in the turbulent history of Africa's largest oil producer and one of the most corrupt nations in the world. But in many places polls failed to open, thugs stole ballot boxes and police stations were burnt down. Opposition leaders vowed to fight the results in court, but in many cases lacked the credibility to inspire popular protests.
After issuing contradictory statements in the local press, the opposition heads said they hoped to capitalize on the traditional worker's marches held on the first of May and spark widespread protests.
Yet although many of the thousands of workers gathered in Lagos expressed dissatisfaction with the vote, few were willing to brave the police and army gathered outside the stadium to make their voice heard.
"The election has been done already, we can't change it," said 23-year-old Bukky Sanusi, a transport worker. She had registered but decided not to vote because she was worried about rigging and safety.
"They already decide who wins. Why should I risk myself?" she shouted over the music of a nearby police band.
Nearby, 40 women in white T-shirts had gathered, passing out leaflets that called for the cancellation of the elections and holding up a banner that demanded the "immediate arrest" of the country's top electoral official.
"He must answer to the Nigerian people as to why he has brought us this shame of a stolen election," said Abiola Akoyode.
In the capital of Abuja, the vice presidential candidates for the country's two biggest opposition parties managed to get into the area the rally was being held, but police searched arrivals for leaflets or placards denouncing the elections and confiscated them, barring access to those who carried them.
The head of the Nigeria Labor Congress, an umbrella group for the country's trade unions, called the election results unacceptable.
Abdulwahed Omar said, "we fear that whatever government is formed based on those flawed elections will be politically and morally disabled."
However, he stopped short of calling for street protests or other direct action against he government.
In Lagos, the stadium was plastered with posters reminding would-be demonstrators what they had to lose. "Don't make Lagos a battleground," pleaded one, then reiterated the plea in Nigeria's widely spoken pidgin English:
"Say no to demonstration ... Make we no sacrifice our life."
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Associated Press Writer Bashir Adigun contributed to this report from Abuja, Nigeria.


Updated : 2021-01-28 06:13 GMT+08:00