The bad and the ugly of Kogi election
YEKINI JIMOH, who covered the November 16, 2019 governorship election in Kogi State, brings part of the breadth-taking moments during the poll.
The November 16, 2019 governorship election in Kogi State will go down as traumatizing experience in the history of the politics of the state. There were pervasive fear and apprehension up to the dawn of the poll, in spite of assurances by security agencies that their personnel were fully on ground. The deputy Inspector General of Police in charge of Operation, AbdulMajid Ali, had vowed not to brook any nonsense, as the police had deployed 35, 200 personnel to stave off troublemakers.
On the day of the election in Kogi Central senatorial district, where the incumbent governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, hails from, the exercise peaceful as voters freely exercised their franchise. But in Kogi West and Kogi East, the situation was tense and volatile. For instance, in Ijumu Local Government Area, some suspected hoodlums destroyed ballot boxes in Mopamuro.
The Aiyedayo Ward 08, PU- 004, Amuro was invaded at about noon by some hoodlums, who inflicted injuries on voters, destroyed and tore all the thumb-printed ballot papers at the unit.
The electoral officials had to scamper for safety. Some suspected thugs also disrupted voting in three polling units in Aiyetoro Gbedde in the local government area. The thugs arrived in a Hilux van and shot sporadic before absconding with ballot boxes, while one voter was shot in the process.
Stalwarts of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) traded blames over the incident. Commodore Folusho Daniel (retd), of the PDP accused the APC of importing the thugs into the area to subvert the rights of voters. Daniel is a former lawmaker representing Mopamuro state constituency. ‘’We are just waiting to see if they would come around to some of our units in Orokere Ward 06, but we are prepared for them too; So far so good,’’ he warned.
However, Hon Kayode Dennis, an APC stalwart, accused the PDP of an alibi on the claim that the APC imported thugs. Dennis noted that all the tyres of his car were also punctured by some hoodlums over the night on the day of the election. ‘’Our people should abstain from political bitterness; they should embrace peace because politics is not war,” he stressed.
Actors trade blames
The PDP candidate for Kogi West senatorial district, Senator Dino Melaye, was furious over the conduct of the poll. He alleged that corps members who were engaged by the INEC for the conduct of the poll signed election results sheets under duress. According to Melaye, NYSC officers, at the early hours of Sunday, were forced to sign new election results. He lost a nephew, Juwon Oluyomi, as a result of injuries sustained from gunshots during the election at Ayetoro. Melaye alleged on his official Twitter page that, “NYSC polling officers forced to sign new results. What class of desperation! In God alone I trust. Figures being changed across the Local Government collation centers. Absolute compromise by returning officers.”
A source close to the family said Oluyomi was hit by a stray bullet at Ayetoro on Saturday while election was going on and was quickly rushed to an undisclosed hospital.
In Abocho community in Dekina Local Government Area, five persons reportedly died during the election. Some natives gave the names of the victims as Umoru shuaib and Faruk Suleiman. Witnesses said the incident happened while voting was going at the Barracks Polling Unit 1. According to the witnesses, the main target of the assailants was Umoru Shaibu. “They came in a bus while voting was taking place; they were dressed in police uniform, so we didn’t suspect anything. Umoru had voted and was chatting with Faruk close to the poling unit, when the bus drove by. None of the occupants, who were in police uniform, disembarked from the vehicle.
‘We just heard gunshots and shouting from the victims as well as onlookers. In the ensuing pandemonium, the attackers zoomed off,” a witness, Mr Michael Ochimamna told newsmen.
The major streets in the ancient town were deserted; stones and cudgels littered the road, while tyres earlier burnt by youths protesting the attack to form barricades on the highways still emitted smoke. There were also cases of sporadic gunshots in other communities such as Emewe Okapda, which is a part of Ajiyolo in Dekina Local Government Area.
In Aikpele-Ajaka polling unit 002, Igalamela-Odolu Local Government Area, some armed men in masks reportedly shot sporadically into the air to disrupt voting, with the people claiming that the attackers snatched ballot boxes and drove away. In Lokoja, the state capital, three persons were reportedly killed at Adankolo polling unit when some hoodlums tried to snatch ballot boxes. A passerby was reportedly hit by a stray bullet. The incidents provoked some youths who later razed a building belonging to an APC leader, who narrowly escapade lynching.
Morning after the moment of rage was widespread. Every stakeholder was on the edge, while the security personnel made frantic efforts to bring the situation under control. On its part, the Bello/Onoja Governorship Campaign Council pleaded with the APC faithful to remain calm and law-abiding. In a statement issued on Sunday by the Chairman, APC Media and Publicity Committee, Mr Kingsley Fanwo, read: “We have a credible intelligence that the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party has directed the national publicity secretary of the party, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan, to quickly address a press conference to condemn an ongoing process that has been adjudged free, fair, credible and peaceful just because they are seeing the handwriting of people’s rejection on the wall.
“The pockets of crisis during the election were caused by the stand of the people against the rigging machinations of the PDP. Mr Ologbondiyan was caught in the same satanic plan as he has been alleged to have carried ballot boxes and papers to his private residence, a situation that was staunchly resisted by the people of his Ward who insisted on the power of the ballot.
“How will such a person garner enough moral strength to address a press conference to condemn a largely credible process? He and other PDP leaders should accept the verdict the people and clean their names in the face of heavy accusations against them. We commend the Independent National Electoral Commission and security agencies for their excellent performance in ensuring fair conduct.
“To the PDP, they should prepare for future elections with seriousness and stop claiming ‘danger to democracy’ when things don’t go their way. We also congratulate Kogites for coming out en masse on Saturday to elect their next governor.”
Similarly, the camp of the PDP in the state exhibited maturity, while it expressed indignation on the conduct of the poll. The candidate of the party, Musa Wada, said the election did not represent the will and wish of the people. “The result is not true reflection of what happened. The people of the state voted for PDP but APC changed the result to favour them. The results declared so far by the INEC is a written result and we can’t accept that. Every single result was change and we are going to challenge the election. The election is not true reflection of what happened in the field. I am the candidate of the party and I don’t have to wait till they kill me; I have to cry out to the people of Nigeria to know that the APC rigged the election,” Wada alleged.
The candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Natasha Akpoti, was also livid with anger over the result of the election, calling for the cancellation of the result. In a petition addressed to the chairman of the INEC, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, Akpoti said election did not hold in 780 polling units in Kogi Central as result of the violence. She further alleged: “The APC thugs were shooting, which resulted in the death of voters. The thugs, in most cases, were shielded by security agents who are supposed to provide security for the citizenry. What happened in Kogi Central and other part of the state is a far cry from a credible election. Ballot boxes were destroyed and burnt in Okene, Adavi, Ajaokuta, Ogori Magongo and Okehi local government areas and other part of the state.
“SDP agents were chased away from the various polling units of Kogi Central Senatorial, in some polling units SDP agents were tied with ropes by APC thugs in Okene local government, our agents were not even allowed to cone near the polling units as APC thugs were seen brandishing guns and announcing to voters not come and vote unless they were to only vote APC.”
In the petition, Akpoti alleged that there were no result sheet in some polling units; while 2015 stamped ballot papers were used in the conduct of the election and in most cases, the SDP was written with pencil on the result sheet. “Ballot papers already thumb-printed by voters in favour SDP already tucked into the ballot boxes were sorted out by the APC led thugs and burnt. The election as it is now cannot pass the test of fairness and credibility. Whatever gains.
INEC seems to have achieved in the conduct of election in the past will be completely eroded if the election in Kogi Central Senatorial District and some other part of Kogi State is allowed to stand,” the petition stated.
While the storm over the outcome of the election rages, the fundamental issues thrown up are bound to come in shapes and forms in the weeks ahead. As the winner begins to savour the aroma of victory, the aggrieved will consider other options by which he can claim the ‘stolen’ mandate.