Jennifer Edifi is now as famous as the February 25 election. But she would have argued and dismissed it as a fake prophecy if someone had told her that would happen.
Artists on social media have made stylised portraits of Edifi and tagged her as a heroine of democracy. Yet that was the last thing on her mind when she left her house that election morning.
she was filled with enthusiasm about voting for the very first time in her more than 30 years of being a Nigerian
Along with her sudden rise to fame, the mother of two has played host to sympathisers – one presidential candidate, one gubernatorial candidate, a group of lawyers and several Nigerians – from different parts of the nation in just about a couple of weeks.
Like millions of Nigerians, the Bayelsa State indigene who now lives Lagos woke up feeling the cash crunch. However, she was filled with enthusiasm about voting for the very first time in her more than 30 years of being a Nigerian.
She arrived at her polling unit 065 in Surulere Lagos, early, like every other person eager to vote.
“I’ve always wanted to vote, I’ve been so enthusiastic about this particular election,” Edidi said. “That morning I got to my polling unit by 9am, and at that time voting had commenced, checked for my name, found it and then I joined the queue.”
When all the preliminaries were done, she joined the queue and inches towards her longtime dream. But there was a snag. The line slowed painfully. Edidi then noticed preference was given to senior citizens and pregnant women so she took a seat and waited.
After sitting for a while, staying on her phone to see happenings elsewhere, she noticed people started shunting the queue.
“Please let’s stop shunting the queue, let’s do what we have to do correctly and go back to our houses,” the Niger-Delta University graduate recalled saying before going back to her seat.
She became a little apprehensive when she noticed some young men whom she was seeing for the first time since she got to the polling unit. They disappeared as fast as they appeared and everything seemed back to normal.
I began to feel blood trickle down my face and I started to cry for help, while running for cover
“Less than an hour after, while I was still pressing my phone, I felt a huge impact on my face,” Edifi recounted. “I did not know what object hit me or who did it.”
Then gunshots followed. People scampered for safety. In just a twinkle of an eye, everything changed.
“I began to feel blood trickle down my face and I started to cry for help, while running for cover,” she said, wincing as if reliving the moment.
In the midst of the chaos, it was every man for himself. Help didn’t come on time as people were scared by the sight of the blood gushing out of her face.
“It was a woman on my street who recognised me and came to my rescue, she used her handkerchief to reduce the bleeding,” she said, adding that the first aid was applied while she was still looking for a safe place to hide.
They both found an empty house to hide. Apparently, the owner had run for their lives too.
While her neighbour tried all she could, the house owners came back along with others.
“I asked if I had been shot. I was really agitated.
The folks around were unsure too of what had happened to Edifi. All they could see was blood. She cried.
Edifi was sure she was dying. She begged to be saved whatever way possible. She was losing blood.
The helpers did the best they could in the situation to calm her down as they waited for the thugs to leave the polling unit.
“I was bleeding profusely and was moved to another compound away from the polling unit but still nothing could be done until they were certain that the thugs had gone.
There’s a nurse in the next compound, Edidi was told, but she’s an old woman and couldn’t come out as no one is sure what will happen next.
When things settled, the good Samaritans moved the bleeding Edifi to the nurse’s place where she was administered analgesics immediately.
“…and that was the video that went viral, it was a first aid to stop the blood flow,” she said.
Edifi does not know how the video got out, she thinks one of the good Samaritans who held the light for the nurse made the video and shared it.
“It was after I was treated that I called my husband to tell him what had happened,” said the mother of two who was hesitant at the point of telling her husband so he won’t unwittingly walk into an ambush by the political thugs.
Her husband had stayed at home as he was unable to transfer his polling unit from Delta State to Lagos. She was grateful her husband didn’t yeild to her persuasion to travel to his polling unit a few days to election. Who would she have called now?
“When he came down to where I was being treated we were asked to go to the general hospital. We were a bit skeptical because of the restriction of movement but I told my husband that nobody will see me bleeding like this and will charge us for misconduct,” she said.
At that point, Edifi said she had lost a considerable amount of blood and dizziness was setting in.
“I knew I needed urgent medical attention so we drove off to the hospital,” she said.
At Randle General hospital, Edifi’s cut was sutured. Now certain that it wasn’t a gunshots, but still not clear what had inflicted the wound, more medications were given and she was told to go home and return on Tuesday to see an eye specialist.
She intended to obey the doctor and go home straight. But on their way from the hospital, Edifi’s husband passed the polling unit.
“I don’t know, but I think it was God’s plan because there were other routes we could have passed,” she said.
As she passed by, her determination to vote overpowered her and she insisted her husband stopped so she could at least see what was going on in the polling unit after the violence.
To her surprise voters had reconvened and were voting. Fresh ballot voters’ registers had been pasted on the wall and fresh ballot papers were on hand for voters.
“So all the effort towards getting my PVC will amount to nothing,” she said. “The rigor of registration, during the registration I left the house before 5am, all of my eagerness, wanting to experience voting will just go in vain?”
She couldn’t stand the thought. More so, what could be the worst on that day after what had already happened?
“I’ve been hurt, with all of these injuries and I don’t get to vote. I was attacked, I wasn’t a politician, not contesting, not a party agent, I only wanted to vote,” she said.
The sight of Edifi, now wearing plaster above and below her right eye caused a cheerful steer at the polling unit.
Casting that vote was very emotional for me, that was when I was crying and blood was trickling down. I was happy I was able to fulfill my civic rights
There was no need to queue again. The other voters were happy she could come back and then let her have her turn at the polling booth immediately.
“Then and there I saw how my coming back despite my wounds encouraged people at the polling unit,” she said.
“I could hear people saying if after being injured I went to the hospital and came back to cast my vote what excuse do they have?
“I saw that it lifted people’s spirit.”
It was an emotional moment for her before the ballot box.
“Casting that vote was very emotional for me, that was when I was crying and blood was trickling down. I was happy I was able to fulfill my civic rights,” she said.
Edifi couldn’t recall seeing any security officer at the polling unit before and after the attack. She only recalled briefly seeing INEC officials running for dear life to a mosque nearby.
“I don’t know how they were able to restart the election process at the polling unit because I spent about two hours at the hospital,” she said impressed at the commitment of everyone that made it happen.
“Most times when things are going bad we forget that we had opportunities to contribute, by voting I wanted to clear my conscience and know that I made a choice too, whether my choice comes to stand or not at least I played my part.”
Asked how she feels about being seen as an icon of democracy on social media, Edifi said she likes it.
“I feel good and happy that a lot of people have been encouraged to not give up, knowing their votes count,” she said. “We can have a good country and there’s still hope for the nation.”
With her plasters off, a big scar and a lot of conviction in her mind that Nigeria can’t be divided along ethnic, religious and political cleavages Efidi hopes to vote again
Edifi’s face lit up when she described how tons of Nigerians who didn’t know her had sent her money, called to check up on her and at how fast her information spread on social media.
“Nigerians are the best, this incident has broadened my horizon and given me a better perspective of my compatriots,” she said.
“Even the calls I get from people cut across all religions, ethnic groups, across gender from within and outside the country.
“Some call to pray for me, check up on me, I mean just seeing a number on social media and you have time to check on me, made me dumbfounded.”
She is convinced that most Nigerians are good people and she can’t thank them enough.
“Some will say please just take this N1000, N2000, let me just get you orange, both old, young, female and they keep checking up on my progress,” she said.
“These people did not ask about my tribe, they didn’t know what party I voted for, what candidate I voted for, they showed kindness because of what I had passed through.”
With the experience, Edifi is convinced that her country can’t be divided by tribe or religion because the unity she has experienced during the short period has been overwhelming.
There are bad folks in the country too, she learnt. Apart from the thugs who injured her, scammers are using are experience and photos to fleece kind-hearted folks who want to help.
“Since the incident a lot of people have open various pages on several social media platforms claiming to be me,” she said.
“I have put disclaimers on my real accounts against such fraudsters and reported them too.
Although some people video called to confirm if I was the one, there were also stories of someone wrapped in bandage pretending to be me.”
With her plasters off, a big scar and a lot of conviction in her mind that Nigeria can’t be divided along ethnic, religious and political cleavages Efidi hopes to vote again on Saturday in the governorship and state house of assembly election.