Three Fs take second place to two Olus

Faith, football, and fuel have for once been overshadowed, as Nigeria goes to the polls. Despite well-founded doubts, the people are ready to believe elections may get the country back on its feet

SAVE fuel - don't go to hell! shouts the bumper sticker on the battered yellow and black minibus taxi. "No accident shall befall" says the white Mercedes stuck next to it on Falumo bridge, "in the name of God."

Three Fs - faith, fuel and football - are the dependable elements of life in Lagos. Two of them never go away - an abundance of faith and a shortage of fuel. But football has temporarily been overtaken by voting to bring about the transition from "khaki to agbada" (traditional dress). Even the controversy over Nwankwo Kanu and Marc Overmars's decisive goal for Arsenal against Sheffield United in the fifth round of the FA Cup - due to be replayed on Tuesday - has been overtaken by politics at home.

It has been 15 years since the last civilian administration. But Lagosians are showing amazing magnanimity - or collective amnesia - as they engage in a voting process which they know to be flawed, for parties led by soldiers who want a wardrobe change.

Yesterday, it was elections for the two houses of parliament. Next Saturday, in the presidential elections, they will choose between two Olus who have more than their first names in common. There is Olusegun Obasanjo, a retired general, and Olu Falae, former finance minister under a retired general.

"Oh, well" is really all you can say. Nigerians are pragmatic. All they can do is go to church and pray. There has been a lot of church lately because faith, like fuel, football and politics, is business.

Along with thousands of Lagosians, Gloria Jemingo, a beautician, went to church on Friday night to pray for a good election. The all-night vigil at the Living Fire Ministry, which meets in the warders' quarters of Ikoyi Prison, was not for the faint-hearted.

"Are you feeling tired? Then you are a blasphemer," said John, the ministry president, at around 1am. "Let us pray," he shouted into the microphone, his whole being trembling. To a man, woman and child, the congregation of about 150 people tensed up, their arteries protruding as they rolled their heads and paced up and down, shouting "pray, pray, pray" with violent force.

If God did not hear us, he does not exist. But not to worry: they say here that God is a Nigerian.

We galloped through the Parable Of The Sower (Matthew 13) and Revelations. "Are you in the church of Ephesus, Pergamos, Sardis, Laodicean or Philadelphia?" he asked. "No," came the resounding chorus. Everyone knew what John meant because, apart from church on Sundays, they go regularly to Bible class (Wednesdays) and Deliverance Day (Mondays). John makes a living from the collections - 10, 20 and 50 Naira notes (8p to 40p) held up by the congregants - and you cannot say he does not work for his money.

"He is a great preacher," says Gloria. "Praying will improve the elections, so that good can prevail over the soldiers. God is above all men, including politicians, but if we spread good messages, they will rub off on to those men."

After staying up all night and praying for good elections, Gloria did not vote yesterday. Ikoyi is not her ward, and we all had to observe a curfew. Between 7am and 3pm yesterday, no one was allowed to leave the street they were in. If you were not in your ward, tough.

Oh, well... The combination of devoutness and living under military rule for all but 10 of Nigeria's 39 years of independence, has taught Lagosians the patience of saints. In a way, yesterday was just like a Sanitation Day - the last Saturday of every month, when no one is allowed to leave their area and must devote the time to cleaning the streets.

Gbenga Lawal, a 35-year-old teacher acting as a presiding officer, explained the rules at polling unit 004 of Ward 093, under a large shady tree on Glover Road, Ikoyi. Between 8am and 11.30am, voters brought their registration cards and he checked them against a list. They were instructed to return to vote between 11.30am and 2.30pm. At 3pm he would count their votes.

"Everyone stand in a straight line," shouted Mr Gbenga at 11.15am, when the voters - mostly male - began to filter back. There were complaints about a lot of hanging around, but Mr Gbenga was cool, delivering his instructions in English and Yoruba: "I will give you a ballot paper and you will go behind the screen and put your thumbprint next to the name of one party. Then you will come back to my table and put the paper in the box."

Among the 122 people accredited at unit 004 was 39-year-old Caleb Osiobe. "Five hundred people are expected at each unit, so this is going to be a bad turnout. It is surprising, because there is nothing else to do today." He had voted for Mr Falae's Alliance for Democracy, because Gen Obasanjo was "a military man who does not have the temperament to listen to people and take advice".

In common with most voters, Caleb was under no illusions. "Considering the years and years of military rule, we are doing well to have an election which is as fair as this. Yes, the candidates are friends of the military and a lot of money changed hands to get them where they are. But it is important to go out and vote, to maximise Falae's chances."

Yet he then enumerated a series of reasons why voting might be a waste of time. "The registration process was a shambles in October. Often there were not enough cards for people. In other places, there were too many. In Lagos, all the cards were not distributed and a number were bought by the parties. A friend of mine bought a registration card the other day for 100 Naira."

Oh, well ... Politics, like football, faith and fuel, are business. "This is not the good election. That will come later, when a new generation of politicians has emerged which is untarnished by the past and has a world view. We just have to be patient," said Caleb.

Up the road, at Falumo Roundabout, Omolara Adeshina was not voting because she had spent the night in a fuel queue on a National forecourt, nowhere near her home. She expected to be served during the afternoon at the new - doubled - fuel price of N20, or 12p, a litre. It is still cheaper than the black market rate: N120 a litre.

"I shall make sure I am home for the presidential elections next week," she said. "I am prepared to believe in the elections, because I think it could be quite easy to get this country on its feet.

"Repair the refineries to get the traffic moving. Introduce decent public transport, then people will not have to steal money to buy cars. Get the electricity, water and basic sanitation fixed, then people will be happy with their politicians."

It sounds so simple. But will either of the two Olus deliver? Oh, well... There will always be faith, fuel and football.

Sport
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
Pepper, the 3ft 11in shiny box of circuits who can tell jokes and respond to human emotions
techDavid McNeill tests the mettle of one of the new generation of androids being developed in Tokyo
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
News
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
people
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
tech
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Data Migration Consultant

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a FTSE 100 organisation are u...

Programme Support, Coms, Bristol, £300-350p/d

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Linux Systems Administrator

£33000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly successfu...

(Junior) IT Systems Administrator / Infrastructure Analyst

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly ...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice