PDP’s Bayelsa, Kogi loss: The limit of protests
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) raised the alarm several times to draw attention to issues that could negatively affect the conduct of the November 16 gubernatorial elections in Bayelsa and Kogi states. But LEON USIGBE writes that the main opposition party’s fears were dismissed.
As preparations kicked off for the November 16 gubernatorial elections in Bayelsa and Kogi states, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was confident that it would nick the two states. Indeed, it boasted that the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidates were so unpopular that the party would not score 20 percent of the votes or attain the mandatory 25 percent of the votes in two thirds of the local government areas “as it cannot boast of genuine followership having failed to consolidate any foothold in the two states.”
The PDP had convinced itself that it had the highest demography of members, supporters, and volunteers in all the electoral units, wards, and local governments. But then, it feared that the APC may recourse to “violence, blackmail, manipulations, and rituals,” which, in any case, the PDP also believed could not sway the resolve of the people in both states.Going into the elections, therefore, the PDP’s confidence was sky-high, grounded on the fact that “there is already consensus that APC’s candidates; the anti-people Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State, as well as unskilled David Lyon of Bayelsa State are no match for PDP’s versatile Musa Wada and cerebral Senator Douye Diri’s popularity in their respective states.” The party was sure that the Kogi election was a determined march to freedom; “for inevitable emancipation from the stranglehold of the repressive, vindictive, exploitative and corrupt APC administration,” a direct referendum against Bello whose administration, the opposition reasoned, had become synonymous with deprivation, poverty, violence and death, most times by suicides.
The PDP believed that millions of Kogi citizens had been viciously deprived of their means of livelihood and the election was, therefore, a date with those suffering millions owed salaries and pensions; youths whose common patrimony Bello “squandered in his reckless wasteful misgovernance.” The PDP equally thought that Bayelsa was in the bag. After all, it had been so since 1999. There was a tinge or overconfidence though because the party worked based on its perception that the APC had no “toehold” in the south-south state. “The APC should know that there is no way the people of Bayelsa will contemplate allowing a party which has proven to be anti-people, ideologically vacuous and corrupt, to be anywhere near their government house,” its spokesman, Kola Ologbodiyan, bellowed in one of his numerous pre-election statements.
However, when President Muhammadu Buhari, on the eve of the election, got the National Assembly to approve over N10 billion for the KogiState government supposedly a refund for money spent on infrastructure, the PDP’s countenance transmuted. The party immediately saw a grand plan by the APC to muscle itself through election not minding the wishes of the electorate. The PDP thought to move that much money to Kogi with the election just at the corner, was an endorsement of corruption and inexcusable injury to the people. “Such action by Mr President further confirms that the All Progressives Congress (APC) is directly in league with Governor Yahaya Bello to strangulate the people of Kogi State,” the PDP posited, sure that the exercises would not be free and fair. It also sensed a move by Bello and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to tamper with the PDP gubernatorial ticket on the ground that the party’s primary was not validly conducted. Several alarms followed.
“The PDP, in the strongest terms, cautions the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) not to, in anyway, attempt to alter INEC’s Monitoring Report on our governorship primary in Kogi State or attempt to tamper with our record of submission of candidate for the November 16 governorship election,” the PDP warned at a press conference, saying that the warning was predicated on intelligence available to its national leadership. Wada remained to contest the election as the candidate of the PDP.
But the now unsettled PDP also raised alarm about the alleged recruitment of 205 loyalists to pose as youth corps members assigned as polling and electoral officers in designated areas to enable the APC and the INEC manipulate the process in such areas. The PDP followed this up with charges of its influential members such as the head of security in Dekina Local Government, Edeh Abutu, being abducted by APC agents in what the opposition saw as part of a clampdown by the Kogi government on its supporters to intimidate them before the election. The party also complained about attacks on its candidate, Wada and the governor of Oyo State, Seyi Mankinde, who was the head of the PDP Kogi state campaign organisation.
The opposition also carped about the deployment of extra national commissioners as well as Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs), from other states, to both Kogi and Bayelsa for the elections as it thought that while some them were of clean records in their previous responsibilities, there were others who were known to be of questionable character and fared far below expectations in their responsibility.
Similarly, the PDP accused INEC of concealing facts on the elections by failing to openly inform stakeholders of its modalities, particularly the use of card readers, the mode of accreditation, voting, as well as collation, transmission and declaration of election results from the polling units to the final declaration. To the PDP, this raised questions on the sincerity of the commission to deliver a credible election. It was also for the party an attempt to suppress vital information ahead of the election to enable INEC and the APC to muddle up and manipulate the electoral processes to favour the APC.
The PDP also expressed its belief that the deployment of Bello’s former ADC, CSP Usman Musa, to coordinate security in the state, was part of the plot to skew the exercise in favour of his former boss. Musa was pulled out by the police authorities following the PDP’s protest. Despite that, the opposition still had reason to complain, this time, about the existence of a list of thugs, gangsters and political mercenaries “imported into Kogi state by the All Progressives Congress (APC) and sinking Governor Bello to (launch) unbridle violence during the November 16 governorship election.”
While the election was ongoing on November 16, the PDP again cried out that Bello and APC agents were threatening and forcing INEC presiding officers, including NYSC members to endorse prefilled results sheets in favour of the APC, in some local government areas particularly Okene and Okehi Local Government Areas in Kogi Central Senatorial zone, “where the governor and the APC are desperate to allocate fictitious votes and fabricate results in their favour.” At the end of the day, the opposition rejected as fictitious, “votes being bandied” from Okene and other areas to favour the APC and demanded their cancellation.
The INEC was neither swayed by the PDP protests nor the election observation groups’ complaints about what they saw as a process that fell below acceptable standards. The electoral body returned Bello with 406, 222 in Kogi against Musa, the PDP’s candidate total of 189, 704. It was 352, 552 for David Lyon, the APC candidate in Bayelsa state compared to the 143, 172 ascribed to DuoyeDiri of the PDP.
The declaration of the results was an affirmation that the PDP’s protests fell on deaf ears. Beyond its expected challenge of the outcome of the elections in court, the PDP has resigned to the reality that the conduct of the Bayelsa and Kogi elections has destroyed the hope Nigerians had in democratic practice. Ologbodiyan summed up PDP’s despair: “It is distressing that under the President MuhammaduBuhari-led APC administration, votes no longer count; power and governance no longer derive from the people but violence, manipulations and the barrel of the gun. Nigerians now ask; are we still in a democracy? With the outcome of the Kogi and Bayelsa governorship elections, Nigerians and the world have lost hope in our institutions of democracy and security system as presently constituted.”
Realising the helplessness of his party on the election issue, the PDP national chairman, Prince UcheSecondus, has now thrown the ball onto the court of the international community to act, according to him, to save Nigeria’s fledgling democracy. He has consequently called on the United Nations (UN) and the African Union (AU) to institute sanctions against the leadership of INEC and the police for allegedly aiding and abetting the subversion of the democratic process in Bayelsa and Kogi states. How these world bodies may react to Secondus’ call remains to be seen.