How the People’s Will was Suppressed by Guns
In this report, John Paul gives a personal account of what transpired during the November 16 governorship election in Kogi State
The people’s voice against a common enemy was so loud at the polling units, but INEC in cahoots with security agencies constricted the entire process, and what was preordained to be a celebration of democracy ended in mayhem. Even at the detriment of the people’s safety, they trooped out en masse, voted, and the results transferred from polling units to local government collation centres indicated that APC was defeated.
It was more apparent when agents representing the ruling party in some polling units, despite trying to woo would-be voters, left the venue while counting was in progress. Others instigated assault with the hope that violence-enmeshed polling units would be annulled. Consequently, ballot boxes at Barrack I Motor Park and Barrack III open space PUs in Egume were destroyed.
In Okura Olafia (Dekina LGA), accreditation/voting began early at various polling units, and by 2 pm, counting of votes commenced with the major opposition, PDP, taking the lead. However, at about 4 pm, INEC officials and ballot boxes, that were being moved from Okura Ward to the collation centre in Anyigba were ambushed by thugs said to be working for the APC.
Save for the intervention of military personnel, the ballot boxes would have been snatched away by the hoodlums, who later converged on Anyigba and held the town hostage, shooting, destroying ballot boxes, and setting ablaze buildings until the following day. Ballot boxes from CMML Primary School PU 009, Odo-Eto PU 005 and Ofe-uloko PU 014 all in Anyigba ward were also destroyed.
In Odu Ogboyega ward 4 PU 001 (Engineer Musa Wada’s polling unit), a fake NSCDC officer was deployed to the polling unit on the eve of the election. He was allegedly assigned to work with the APC agent attached to the PU. But Musa Wada on hearing this alerted the inspector general of police and was also on the ground to make sure people’s votes were protected.
Ironically, contrary to claims by journalists that PDP supporters were caught in massive thumb-printing at the polling unit, APC agent was reported to be involved in vote-buying. Residents/voters, in turn, commercialized their votes as they roamed polling units collecting money in exchange for votes.
However, would-be voters who collected money from APC, according to reports went ahead to vote for PDP in most cases. Still, in Kogi East Dekina LGA, two persons, Farouk and Shuaibu, were killed in Abocho community by thugs for attempting to prevent them from snatching ballot boxes.
Other people were injured by stray bullets. In Idah Local Government Area, an unidentified electoral officer was said to have died mysteriously. But he died while on a boat trip from Idah town to Ibaji, hit by a stray bullet from rampaging hooligans.
In Kogi West Senatorial district, where the governor vowed to trade his re-election for Smart Adeyemi’s senatorial ambition, thugs reportedly shielded by security operatives unleashed terror on the electorate earlier assured of their safety by the police.
Without equivocation, the attacks were premised on the difficulty in identifying the armed men in fake uniforms protected by the security operatives as well as indigenous elites patronizing Governor Yahaya Bello-led APC. The news of intimidation and snatching of ballot boxes was reported in Okoro/Gbede in Ijumu council area.
Would-be voters at Odokoro polling unit 002 (where the snatching occurred) were reportedly warned to either vote APC or leave. A few hours later, some thugs invaded the unit and took away the boxes. In Ayetoro Gbede, Ilu-afor PU 004 Ayetoro 1 (Senator Dino Melaye’s polling unit), the polling unit came under attack as thugs reportedly fired gunshots. Melaye’s nephew, Olorunjuwon, was hit in the melee. He was rushed to a hospital but died the following day. In Ayetoro Gbede II Oku PU 004, there were reports of gunmen dispersing the electorate and destroying ballot boxes.
However, any sane observer could understand that the series of attacks in Kogi West was predetermined. One unarmed policeman or no policeman was attached to INEC’s presiding officers in the polling units which could have led to the alleged abduction of ‘corpers’.
Some claimed that they were taken to the Government House and forced to sign election result sheets.
In Lokoja/Adankolo primary school polling unit, some thugs dressed in police uniforms reportedly killed two voters and wounded several others. Ballot boxes were destroyed as well. In Lokongoma, there was a reported death and destruction of ballot boxes with Nigerian security operatives identified as the culprits. It was even said the security agents had arrived at the area in a helicopter belonging to the Nigeria Police Force.
It was learnt that the attack occurred as APC allegedly did not get a single vote in the polling units. In Lokoja/Ganaja axis, there was a report that youths vehemently resisted gunmen, who invaded a polling unit shooting sporadically. There were claims that although would-be voters were disenfranchised, the youths stood their ground and shouted, “Bello Must Go”.
In summary, the election was characterized by violence, vote-buying, and intimidation of the electorate. But for a few places, where violence was subdued, PDP won based on the available results at the LG collation centres.
There were celebrations in Ojodu, Ankpa, Anyigba, and Omala at the early hours of Sunday.
However, APC’s purported votes in Okene LGA (Kogi Central) changed the complexion of the election. The total number of registered voters in Okene LGA stood at 118,543, while the total PVCs collected was 48,065.
In conformity to INEC’s guidelines (eligible voters are those with PVCs), if at all PDP could not get a vote in Okene LGA, which was absolutely untrue, APC’s votes should have stood at 48,065 instead of 112,543 that was announced by INEC.
Therefore, the question begging for answer is: where are the PDP supporters through whose votes the presidential candidate (Atiku Abubakar) scored 7,839 in the presidential election?
Indeed, the results that gave victory to Bello were decided between the collation centres and INEC’s returning officer, Prof. Ibrahim Garba (ABU Zaria), the compromised security agencies and other accomplices.
––Paul wrote from Lokoja