Saturday, October 11, 2008

The 141st good thing about Lagos: Enforced quiet on election day

Forgive me a brief departure from my posts about our trip to the North. Today is election day for Lagos State and we were advised by our company security to plan on staying at home today due to the risk of unrest on the streets. But I noticed very early in the morning that the street outside our apartment was quiet. Brent said that the directive was not just for us, but for all residents in Lagos there is a "restriction of movement" in place. I don't know the legal difference between that and a curfew; presumably people are still allowed to get to their local polling area to vote. There is a lot of voter apathy here, among the Lagos residents we talked to no one was planning to vote.

Here's some of what our company security briefing said:
Local government elections will be held on 11 October in the commercial hub of Lagos state. The state governing Action Congress (AC) is likely to win an easy victory in the polls. However, a dispute between the AC and the national ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) over the state government’s decision to conduct local elections in council areas outside the 20 recognized in the constitution could fuel unrest during the election period. The PDP’s directive to its candidates to boycott polls in 37 unrecognized council seats is likely to cast a shadow over the legitimacy of the elections and the final results. Sporadic political violence is a credible prospect in the next 48 hours as the polls approach, and the security force response is likely to be heavy-handed.
The AC has held the Lagos state governorship position since former president Olusegun Obasanjo (1999-2007) came to power in the 1999 democratic transition and is keen to consolidate its authority in the state. The fact that it holds such a prestigious governorship seat has often strained relations with the PDP-dominated federal government in recent years.

I haven't heard anything on our CNN coverage here about elections in Lagos, but there's almost constant coverage of the upcoming US elections (where no one would dare put a "restriction of movement" in place on election day) and, of course the world economic crisis. We can't avoid that here, though we can try. So we've got a quiet day at home -- time for exercise, reading, dinner and games with friends upstairs, and, hopefully, some more blog posts.

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