Ibrahim Oyewale writes that the violent outcome of the November 16 governorship election in Kogi State was typical of the confluence state and her leadership
The Kogi State governorship election has come and gone, the winner and the loser emerged, but the scars of violence produced as a result will linger in the memories of people of the state for many years to come. The political landscape in the confluence state on Saturday, 16 November, and post-election period indeed relieved its violent reputation.
Based on her antecedents, Kogi State has always been marked as a flashpoint in every election by the Election Management Body. Kogi Central and some communities in the Eastern flank of the State like Anyingba, Ejule and others, pointed to the fact that the confluence state are violence-prone.
In the build-up to governorship and Kogi West Senatorial elections, there were early warning signs from the body Language of the political parties, the actors and their foot soldiers respectively. INEC in the state had expressed fears through the Resident Electoral Commissioner, James Apam that there could be violence owing to language of campaigns.
Also, ethnic politics further heightened tension as two major ethnic groups in the state – Igalas and Ebiras – were already at each other nerves over who would become next governor of Kogi State. This, perhaps, accounted for desperation on the part of the political actors, who wanted to take firm grip of their localities and ensure the election was a-must-win. This was evident in the results of the Election in Kogi Central and East respectively, where Bello won in all the local government areas and his closest rival, the Peoples Democratic party PDP (PDP) candidate, Musa Wada won 7 out 9 local government in Eastern Senatorial district of the State.
Sources told THISDAY that it was a predetermined political war, because in past four years that the Igalas lost power to Ebira, things have not been the same again and that was why they believed that with their numerical strength, they could win governorship election back.
The Ebiras, who are the occupant of the Lugard House, have seen it as an opportunity to consolidate through second term and poised to retain the power at all cost. Hence the struggle for the soul of Kogi State resulted in violence, which erupted in some key part of the state.
No doubt, the November 16 election provided yet another opportunity for the gladiators to flex their muscles, but this time violence was more pronounced in Igalaland, particularly in Dekina Local Government whilst mobilising for PDP’s Wada, their son. The signs had tipped off what to expect in during the main election. But barely four hours after the commencement of gubernatorial and Kogi West Senatorial rerun elections, unknown gunmen invaded some polling units in Lokoja and snatched ballot boxes. At least five persons reportedly lost their lives in Abocho community in Dekina local government area and Adankolo community of Lokoja, during the exercise.
The election was also characterised by widespread violence, snatching of ballot boxes, voter intimidation, votes buying and voter inducements across local government areas in the state and by the two major parties. While two of the victims were from Abocho in Dekina local government in the eastern flank, three others were killed in Lokoja in the process of ballot snatching at a polling unit at Adankolo in the capital city.
It was gathered that one of the Lokoja victims died from a stray bullet and two others were said to be electoral officers that refused the hoodlums from carting away ballot boxes, when they struck. Residents gave the names of the victims of the violence in Abocho as Umoru Shuaib and Faruk Suleiman. An eyewitness account said the incident happened while voting was ongoing at Barrack Polling unit 1 at Abocho. They said the assailants from all indications, came for Umoru Shaibu.
“They came in a bus while voting was taking place and were in police uniforms, 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 uniforms alighted from the vehicle. We just heard gunshots and shouts from the victims as well as onlookers. In the ensuing pandemonium, the attackers drove off,” narrated Michael Ochimamna.
The major streets in the ancient town of Anyigba were deserted when one of journalist visited the area as stones and sticks littered the road, while tyres earlier burnt by youths protesting the attack were still emitting smoke.
Sources hinted that there were also sporadic gunshots in some other communities in Kogi East shortly after the commencement of voting. Sporadic gunshots were heard in Emewe Okpada and part of Ajiyolo communities in Dekina local government area of the state.
There were reported cases of snatching of ballot boxes across some polling units in the state. Political thugs were also said to have attacked Senator Dino Melaye’s polling unit in Aiyetoro Gbede in Ijumu local government area of the state. This occurred shortly after Melaye had earlier cast his vote and left the place before suspected thugs invaded the area, disrupted the process and carted away ballot boxes and papers.
Melaye and Smart Adeyemi are in a hot contest for Kogi West senatorial seat following the nullification Melaye’s earlier victory by the Election Tribunal.
In Aikpele-Ajaka polling unit 002, Igalamela-Odolu local government, armed men wearing mask reportedly shot sporadically into the air, disrupting the exercise as voters and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) staff took to their heels in all direction. Natives said the assailants snatched ballot boxes and drove away.
In similar vein, there were sporadic shootings and ballot box snatching across some polling units in Lokoja, Logic State capital. Armed thugs stormed polling units at Crowther Memorial School in Lokoja and shot sporadically to disperse voters after, which they carted ballot boxes away. At Muslim Community Secondary School in Lokoja, suspected thugs invaded polling units and shot sporadically to disrupt the voting process.
There were reported cases of ballot boxes snatching at the polling units at SUBEB, Lokoja Club, St Mary by Paparanda Square, Fentolu and Army Barracks – all in Ward A of Lokoja, the state capital. Suspected thugs also invaded polling units at Ganaja Village, Ajaokuta local government area and snatched ballot boxes.
At the end of the day, a total of 149, 576 votes were cancelled as result of widespread of Violence in some polling units. This was done in line with the provision of the Electoral Act 2010 as amended. In the final analysis, it is trite to say that there was nothing about the Kogi election that was credible and indeed, the exercise marked one of the lowest points for INEC. Hopefully, the court will address some of the shortcomings and a reformed Electoral process would provide a lasting solution to election crisis in the country.
…And the Unfinished Business
One of the negative consequences of the electoral violence in Kogi State was that the INEC declared the Kogi West Senatorial election inconclusive.
At the collation centre for Kogi West Senatorial, final result as at Monday stood at APC 80,118 PDP 59,548. The Independent National Electoral Commission INEC has announced Supplementary election in some of the units where election results were cancelled.
Returning Officer, Prof. Olayide Lawal, declared Kogi West Senatorial Election inconclusive as supplementary elections would be conducted in 53 Polling Units and 46,127 Registered Voters affected INEC is billed to announce a new date for the supplementary Polls.
In accordance with the INEC guidelines, the rerun for the Kogi West Senatorial election would hold within the next two weeks. Therefore, it will hold latest by November 30, 2019. The supplementary election will take place in the affected 7 local government areas and at least, 20 Registration Areas (Wards) as well as 53 polling units.
The number of registered voters is 48,10 and total of 30,730 PVC collected. While Smart Adeyemi is leading with 20570 margin based on the result released, Dino needs 25,661 votes to win provided 100 per cent of those who collected PVCs vote in the election.