The Osun state governorship election was, at first, frivolously tagged 'free and fair' but dramatically "inconclusive" because of the arithmetic and frantic factors that bedeviled the whole electioneering. The engineers of the election (INEC) had ordered the rerun of the two elephantine electioneers, Gboyega Oyetola and Ademola Adeleke (the two major contestants), in seven polling units in the hilariously-dubbed 'State of Osun'.
The fear to be too fair, so as not to be democratically forced out of government, made the demigod ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) to desperately devise all possible means to re-rob the people of their votes in the rerun election. The People's Democratic Party (PDP) was not also left out of plotting some political ploys to overcome the ruling party, having been mrginally ahead of APC with 353 votes before the election was declared inconclusive. While the incubent government, led by Rauf Aregbesola, insisted that the bronze ring of power was already secured in their priest's finger and that they would see who on earth could remove it, the PDP governorship candidate, Ademola Adeleke, and his supporters vowed that if the expropriated ring could not be removed, they would get the finger chopped off.
KAJOLA VILLAGE: THE THICK BUSH OF POLITICAL AMBUSH
As we arrived at Disu, an area in Orolu Local Government, the mood of our motorcycle rider changed from good to bad. The tall, fair son of the soil began to shiver; he chattered like a toddler and twittered his words fearfully and confusedly. "If I had known we would journey this far, I wouldn't have agreed to convey you guys. Look at it now, there is trouble everywhere, everybody is shouting. They say they couldn't vote; they were not allowed to vote. Do you think this trip would be safe?" the man protested.
I shunned him, pretending not to hear the premonition in his narration. "Calm down, man! Are you not a man? We are also strangers here. Nobody ever thought it would be this terrible," Dammy, a co-reporter, replied him.
It was 8:14am when we alighted at Disu; the terrain was really tense. Everywhere was filled with the rabble-rousing noise of the aggrieved residents of the street, who were waylaid by thugs reportedly hired by the APC. It was well observed that majority of the residents were fans of 'dancing Senator Adeleke' and thus, they wanted to cast their votes for his party (PDP).
"They didn't allow us to go out," Adunola, an elderly woman with colanut teeth, told me. "They started since yesterday; they were breaking bottles and shooting. We couldn't sleep peacefully in our abodes yesterday."
For the few minutes we spent in Oke-Ogan, Disu, residents spat in one another's eyes. "I told you to let us fight them, but you're hesitating," said a man with tribal marks to another who fenced his upper lip with bushy hair. "If we had bought new cutlasses and hired strong men, too, those unfortunate beings would not have been able to intimidate us."
The latter man seemed to be the leader in the area. "Why are you taking like this?" he asked. "You're talking as if we knew all these would happen. But then, it's not too late. We need to do something now."
An inch forward, there was a thespian show of anger. A man was shouting effortfully, both area and media men forming a zero shape around him. "Look at it, look at some of the bullets shot at some of our people earlier this morning," he said, pointing at some two wasted bullets on the ground.
He continued: "As speedily as we ran, so they ran after us, those thugs; they're as unfortunately crazy as a mad man chasing a masquerade.
"What was our offence? We were not caught courting the wife of their governor neither were we caught stealing the ballot boxes, yet they were chasing us like a cat chasing a rat. Even the policemen who were supposed to be guarding us were rather guiding them, instead shooting at us sporadically and tear-gassing to pepper-blind ingour eyes."
THE ROAD TO TROUBLE
As we traversed Kajola from Disu, our bike rider silently sang scary songs of fear; not even the reporter who sat behind me on the bike could hear him. The windy breeze blew his tiny voice in the air. I carefully listened as he sang like an ancient troubadour. "Maaye o, lagbara Oluwa maaye o", meaning "I shall overcome by the power of the Lord, I shall overcome."
It is an understatement to call the road to Kajola a death trap for drivers and riders but it is not an overstatement to describe the route as the road to trouble, besieged by forests so thick they are capable of paradisiacally accommodating wild animals. I wasn't the only reporter in this tour to trouble. There was Taiwo Adebulu of TheCable, and also two video reporters from OAK TV. We met Kemi Busari of Premium Times in the polling unit. His was a dual role; he was a reporter and an observer. There was also massive movement of buses racing the ghoulish road.
On the road, there was an exchange of duty between violence and silence. Violence would come first and silence would follow for few minutes before violence would break the silence again.
In a long haul from the entrance to Kajola, we were waylaid by some by-standers demonstrating some thuggery propensities on the road. "Hey! Duro nibe (stop there)!" a careless bike rider was stopped by the by-standers.
When searched, a well-rolled, hard hashish (marijuana) and a poisonous dagger were fished out. "Olori bu (unfortunate being), you want to go and vote and you're so armed this way. Are you going to war? Why must you smoke marijuana before you vote, you bastardized ignoramus," a man said. Before the offender could utter a sentence, an immortal blow from nowhere landed on his cheek. He was battered and bruised, and denied access to Kajola.
"You observers are becoming too many on this road. What are you observing? May you not see what will kill you with your eyes," a short, dark man told us. "You can have your ways, anyways," he ordered.
WELCOME TO KAJOLA, WARD A UNIT 1
The number of security agents of the Army, Police and Civil Defence who flooded the road was a sign that we had arrived the polling unit in Kajola. Like a graveyard, silent confusion beclouded the Kajola Community Primary School, a rotten building where the election was held.
Voting had started when we arrived. Fear was noticeable in everybody's face, including the policemen. "No escape route here. Only one road leads to this place as you have all witnessed. Any attempt to do anything funny won't be funny for you guys. Just be careful," a policeman warned reporters.
It was nonetheless realised that apart from the APC party agent, who refused to speak to journalists, no other party agent was present. When asked, Ajigini Tajudeen, the preciding officer of the Polly unit, said: "The major thing we are supposed to do, once it's 8:00am, is to start the election even if no party agent is around. Only one party agent (APC's) is here. We didn't tell them not to come. And I'm sure you know I'm not supposed to find them," Tajudeen said.
"Let's not ask questions that can fuel trouble, please. It's he who is alive that can tell the story. If anything happens to you now, you have no life insurance. So, let's be careful," a reporter with grey hair gave us an I-don't-want-to-die-now advice.
Suddenly, another police van vroomed in. It was led by a pot-bellied black policeman who seemed to have a higher rank than others. Ozaly, one of the policemen, shouted and moved closer to him for salute, which he did. "Oga, this place is terror. It's terrible too, sir," he lamented to his boss. "Yes sir, it's a terror area. Very terror. I wonder why they made this horror place a polling unit," the policeman wondered.
Moving an inch from the voting area, I overheard a man telling a young lady to make sure she collected her money before giving 'them' her PVC.
"Where's your PVC? Don't leave the PVC without collecting your money. It's when you're given 20,000 that's when you should give out your PVC. Okay, I have borrowed you the money I have. That's my advice," he said.
We left Kajola in the company of the policemen. We decided to trail behind their van to avoid sudden attacks by the area boys. On our way back from Kajola, we barely rode a stone's throw without being flagged down. We came down at every pot hole filled with mud on the road.
Frontwards, there was a blue-painted bus ahead of the policemen. The bus, which was crowded by hordes of armed hoodlums, was a big hindrance to our movement. At a point, the thugs in the bus disagreed to agree with one another, which led to a slight fracas amongst them. "I'll test the potency of this charm in you if you're not careful," one of the thugs threatened his accomplice. "Test, I said test it and you'll meet me a strong man. You idiot," the other man replied.
But instead of the policemen to move closer to the armed men and settle the dispute, Ozaly told his colleagues to hold on and calm down. "Calm down, let them go with their trouble," he said. Until the street goons crashed the clash themselves, both the policemen and the journalists couldn't move closer to them, let alone moving ahead of them. Everybody was scared. We waited for minutes to witness their histrionic bottle-breaking and exchange of both hot blows and fury words till the fight was settled, though inimically, then we moved on.
"I'M FED UP, I'M NOT GOING AGAIN!"
"The life span of work is far longer than the life span of man. I'm tired. I don't think I can continue with this journey," the timid bike rider lamented, again when we turned up at Disu and heading to Idiya, another polling unit in the same Boripe Local Government.
"I'm ready to forgo the money you would give for the safety of my life. I'm fed up, I'm not going again. I'm going back to our home."
He was pacified and implored by Mr Kemi Busari and Mr Taiwo Adebulu, the two senior reporters whose bike man was a bit ahead of ours. We rode on. The road from Oke-Ogan to Idiya was a similitude of Kajola road. It was horrible, terrible and capable of breaking one's back bone.
We ultimately scaped through the death traps on Oke-Ogan road and arrived at the main well-constructed road that leads to Idiya community. At the entrance of the boulevard that leads to the polling unit, Idiya, we were stopped by men-at-arm who trooped to the place.
A tall, fair policeman queried our whereabouts, asking us where we were going. "We are journalists and observers, we are heading to the polling unit at Idiya..." Taiwo replied.
"Go back! You people should get out of here. No road here. No road. Get out of here now," the policeman shouted angrily at us. Instantaneously, we turned back and headed to Ifon, another community in Orulu.
AT IFON, VOTERS WERE DENIED THE RIGHT TO VOTE
At Ifon, one of the communities still in Orolu, there was practically a democracy of no option. Voters were denied access to their nearest polling unit to cast their votes in the rerun election. SaharaReporters stopped by amidst the ear-demeaning noisemaking of the residents, who protested how the APC hired thugs and denied them of voting, violently even in the presence of the policemen.
"We were not allowed to vote at Ifon; we didn't vote," they shouted, in chorus.
"We were not allowed to vote. They were flying their handkerchiefs. Only those with the handkerchiefs (which are the APC members) were allowed to vote. Anybody without the handkerchief was bloodily battered. They threatened us with guns.
"Last night, in front Benson's house at Janta, they were shooting and shooting, erratically," a fair middle-aged woman said.
Another man said: "This is not an election. You can imagine. They have seized our PVCs. We were not allowed to vote. One person is casting five votes. This is strictly rubbish.
For over 40 minutes that we spent in the area, residents were shouting on top of their voices. They wanted to vote but weere not allowed. They accused the APC of using federal power to outmaneuvre the election exercise. "The APC have stolen our votes," one said, with another adding what perhaps summarised the entire process: "This is not how to organise an election rerun!"