The concept of free and fair elections in Nigeria is often termed a mirage of impossibility by those who experience the bitter end of the dividends of democracy.
Vote manipulation, irregularities in results, and intimidation of voters are some of the vices which political parties and stakeholders use to subvert justice in what should be a transparent exercise for the defence of the integrity of democracy.
One of such victims is Olufemi Olaniyan, a pharmacist whose safety has become a cause for concern for friends, families and neighbours around his private retail pharmacy which he manages until his political affiliations brought armed men to his doors.
Olaniyan had been an active supporter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for years, but trouble started when he decided to pitch his tent with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Lagos state as his colleague, a fellow pharmacist, was gunning for the governorship position on the party’s platform.
The election, which was conducted on April 11, 2015, saw the APC edge out the PDP in a keenly contested affair marred by allegations of rigging and undemocratic practices.
One year after the APC’s victory at the polls, loyalists of the party seem not to have forgotten the perceived betrayal as they continue to grind axes with those who tried to ensure the story was told differently.
According to sources close to the pharmacist, Olaniyan had lived a peaceful life, and was very popular in the neighbourhood, which was why his sudden disappearance raised eyebrows.
He explained that Olaniyan (Managing Director) operated ‘Alphega Pharmacy’ at No. 5, Olori street, Shogunle, Oshodi, Lagos, disappeared sometime in late 2015 after gunmen, believed to be police officers, raided the place and abducted the store manager when they could not find Olaniyan.
According to the source: “Last year, around August, one vehicle showed up here, and policemen came out with guns. They entered his (Olaniyan) pharmacy to search for him but it was only the other guy (the manager) they found there.
“They scattered the place and dragged the guy into their vehicle and drove him away. That’s how we did not see him until he came back after two days.
“After that day they kept coming once in a while to see if Olaniyan had returned so they can arrest him too but they didn’t find him.”
However, the source pleaded anonymity for fear of being discovered and harassed for offering information on the matter.
A visit to his residence yielded the same result as neighbours refused to comment on the matter for fear of being identified. One neighbour begged to not have her picture taken or name mentioned as she said police had been known to frequent the area to oppress individuals aggressively.
While commenting on Olaniyan’s ordeal, she said in Pidgin English, “That man don suffer o. He no de sleep for house again because dem de find am. Dem don disturb hin wife sotey she sef de travel go her village sometimes. Their two pikins sef no de go school again because anything fit happen.”
When quizzed on why the community was unable to rise against the attacks or report the matter to the police, she said the police were the ones used to perpetrate the attacks.
“If to say na armed robbers or area boys now, we for don gather chase dem, but na police people so who we go report to. As ee be now, nobody know whether dem don arrest am or know where he de now,” she added.
Commenting on the development, the PDP governorship aspirant in the state said, “Olaniyan was a member of the ruling party (APC) since 2011, but he supported the opposition, which was my party, in that election because of the relationship we shared.”
Olaniyan wouldn’t be the first to be targeted for political reasons. Multiple reports of ‘witch-hunting’ have called into question the fairness of elections in Nigeria, and the independence of the police as an agent of peace-keeping.
The police Public Relations Officer was unavailable for comment as of the time of filing this report.