Photo images of a voter, Efidi Jennifer trended on Twitter during and after Saturday’s Presidential and National Assembly elections. The photos showed her face covered in blood with others showing a bandaged face after receiving treatment following an attack by hoodlums at her polling unit in Lagos. She speaks with SEGUN ADEWOLE about the experience
Can you describe how the attack you suffered happened?
I went out with my daughter to cast my vote at Dipo Olubi Street in Surulere, like every other Nigerian. When I got there, I got verified and joined the queue waiting to vote. I later went to sit down because the line wasn’t moving due to some disorderly people smuggling themselves into it. After sitting for some time, some boys appeared, and they looked scary. It was obvious they didn’t come to vote. They were not close to us at the time, but a bit away from where the queue was. The boys were discussing, and I could see that some people who knew them went to join them.
Meanwhile, the voting process was still ongoing. After about 45 minutes, I felt a huge impact on my face and heard the sound of a gunshot.
To be sincere, I thought I had been shot. I thought the impact I felt on my face was from a bullet. People started running, and so I stood up, placed my hand on my face, and felt blood. I started screaming for help. People who saw me calling for help fled in the opposite direction. I later ran into the building where voting was taking place. Someone later came to help me by using a handkerchief to apply pressure to my face in an attempt to stop the bleeding. We remained inside the building until the boys left. I was later able to receive first aid treatment from a nearby nurse.
In the video that went viral, you will see her giving me an injection to stop the bleeding. I was then taken to a nearby hospital, where the cuts on my face were stitched. I suffered deep cuts.
Did the people who attacked the polling unit succeed in carting away ballot boxes?
I heard they poured the ballot papers into a gutter. Those were the votes that were already cast. I don’t know if they carted away the ballot boxes. There was great havoc as they came with sharp objects and bottles. They tore the verification papers that were posted on the wall. I found out about it after I returned from the hospital where I had been receiving treatment.
What made you return to the polling unit to cast your vote after the attack?
Coming back from the hospital, I saw that people had reconvened again to cast their votes. At that point, I said it was only necessary that I cast my vote because, I sustained this injury because of it, and they did this to me. I had been so willing to vote, so I said they had done the worst they could do. So I alighted from my car and went straight to the ballot box to cast my vote.
Was the choice of your candidate to vote for the reason behind your attack?
That is personal. It’s not about who I voted for. I wanted to exercise my civic rights and participate in the process. I coordinated myself well within the polling unit and didn’t engage in any political talk because I’m not a politician. So, I wonder why I was targeted.
How do you feel about the photos of your face covered in blood trending on Twitter?
I learnt that photos of me were trending on Twitter. People have been telling me about them. I’ve not seen them because I’m not a Twitter user. I only just opened an account on the platform today, but I’ve not surfed the platform.
Were people inspired by your bravery when you returned to the polling unit to vote?
Yes, they were chanting and giving me a round of applause. I felt it. Right now, I don’t know the outcome of the election at the polling unit because I haven’t gone outside to interact with people.
Have you been receiving support from Nigerians since the attack?
Yes, some people have been calling to console me, while others said they sent money to my bank account. I’ve been able to confirm some of the payments.
How did your family, especially your husband and children, react to the attack you suffered?
Their reaction was nothing more than giving thanks to Jesus. We are glad it was not more than this. We are just being grateful to God.
Are you still feeling pain after the treatment you received?
I’m still feeling pain, especially in my eyes. I’ll be going to see an optometrist tomorrow to see if there is anything wrong with my eyes. As for the injuries, I’ll be going to the hospital every day to dress the wound.
What advice will you give to those who might be scared to come out and vote in the coming governorship elections due to the attack you suffered?
I think the attack is just a means to discourage people from coming out to vote. I’ll advise the government to put safeguards measures in place to protect polling places. I’ll advise people to come out and play their part by exercising their franchise.
Will you come out to vote in the governorship election?
If I’m okay and sound by then, I’ll come out to vote if the government makes certain provisions, like the deployment of armed personnel in polling units. That was the disadvantage we had in the polling units around my area; they had no armed personnel on the ground during voting.