Voters across Zamfara State in Northwest Nigeria were unable to cast their ballots during the Presidential and National Assembly elections because they were threatened with abduction by terrorists.
Election regulator INEC had made provision for people who would normally vote in rural polling units presently under the control of armed groups, to vote in supposedly safer surroundings of nearby towns.
But terrorists spread messages that anyone who cooperated with the special measures to vote would be kidnapped as they travelled to the polling units.
The result was that few people went out to vote at all.
The collation officer for Zamfara State presidential election, Professor Kashim Shehu of Federal University of Birnin Kebbi, said that votes in 167 polling units were cancelled due to insecurity, among other reasons.
Turnout in the rest of the state was low, declared figures from election results suggest.
Overall turnout in the state was as low as 23 per cent, according to Civic Hive, a results collating website.
An election result form from Zamfara which appeared on social media, shows the extremely low level of engagement. Only 13 people cast their vote at a polling unit in Zurmi, a town 20 miles away from an area where INEC made special provisions to vote elsewhere. Over 400 had been registered.
Two of the areas most affected were Kurya and Kware wards of Shinkafi Local Government Area (LGA).
The notorious terrorist Bello Turji whose gang controls the area, apparently offended that he should be the subject of special provisions, threatened voters in the two wards that his gang would abduct anyone who travelled to vote.
Turji’s warning was transmitted to a local Imam by gang members for dissemination to voters.
Saifullahi Adamu, from Kware, told HumAngle, “Our Imam addressed and told us that Turji sent a message that election materials must be deployed to his ward in Kware so that elections can be held there.
“However, INEC already realised the situation and therefore relocated all of us from Kware and Kurya wards to Badarawa ward for us to be able to vote,”
“No one to save us”
Many locals said they remained at home. Maimuna Kalli, another Kware local, said “If we had dared to go, nobody would come to our villages to save us from his [Turji] attacks.”
A local, Abubakar Suleiman, pointed out that some polling units were relocated to Shinkafi metropolis and Badarawa. But these efforts yielded little fruit.
Communities such as Kokiya, Chigama, Sabon Birni, and Dan-Wala villages of Birnin-Magaji LGA, all witnessed low turnouts for fear of Turji’s wrath.
HumAngle gathered that other terror groups followed Turji’s example. They issued the same threats in some areas of Birnin-Magaji LGA.
Samail Janyau, Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) in Zamfara State told HumAngle that the body had taken the measures to enable those in affected areas to exercise their civic responsibilities. But this effort was not as successful as expected.
Ismail Tudu, a resident of Birnin-Magaji, pointed out that “already, even in 2019, election didn’t hold in some identified wards in Birnin Magaji including my ward, Kiyawa. We had to travel to the local government headquarters and vote.”
Politicians had used methods, such as giving gifts of cash and clothing to locals, but the people of Magaji still stayed away from polling units in Yanbuki.
“This is the same situation in Gidan-Kara and Kutoru villages of Zurmi LGA despite the money and customised clothes the politicians supplied to voters during the elections in those areas,” Malam Rabiu Yanbuki said.
Eligible voters like Garba Ilu are bent on staying alive more than anything else. “I don’t even dream of going to vote for or against anybody. Because whether or not I vote means nothing to the safety of my life. We forcefully live and almost sleep with the bandits in our areas. No government cared to protect us. All the government cares about is protecting the bandits themselves,” he said.
Sufiyanu Umar, aged 39, and a resident of Dakko village in Bakura LGA told HumAngle: “On the day our election materials arrived at our polling unit in Dakko at about 1:45 a.m., the terrorists attacked us and we all ran away and narrowly escaped their wrath.
“As I am talking to you, I don’t know the whereabouts of any of my two wives, not even to talk about casting our vote. The election didn’t hold peacefully there.”
In Sokoto State, “over 6,000 to 7,000 voters did not vote in Tudun-Sunnah, Tama and Gatawa in SabonBirni LGA. So also in Gandi, Tabanni and Alikeru villages of Rabah LGA,” said Bashiru Guyawa Altine, a resident of Isah LGA.
“How could they vote when their respective polling units were relocated to the local government headquarters, and they had no money to sponsor themselves for the trip.”
INEC figures show registered voters in the state stood at 1,879,308, while 527,137 were accredited. The total of votes cast was 519,431.
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