By Elizabeth Chukwuma
Barely nine months after the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, under the Chairmanship of Mahmood Yakubu, a Professor, conducted the last General elections in the country that produced President Muhammadu Buhari of the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, and 22 other state governors including members of the National Assembly, the electoral umpire on Saturday, November 16, 2019, went back to the polls in Bayelsa and Kogi states for the governorship election .INEC sources disclosed that over 40 parties had fielded Candidates for the Bayelsa governorship election while about 24 parties fielded Candidates in Kogi state election including the Social Democratic Party, SDP.
Prior to the election, the Commission had urged the electorates not to ‘’sell their votes to the political jobbers. Note that past elections had been marred by selling of votes by voters to political office seekers from both the PDP and the APC who were desperate to win election at all costs. Notwithstanding the appeal of the INEC officials to the Bayelsa and Kogi voters in the November 16 election, , money still exchanged hands between the politicians and the voters through their foot soldiers.
President Muhammadu Buhari , on his part, called for’ ’fairness and transparency’’ in the governorship election of the two states. Garba Shehu,a senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity who issued a Statement on Thursday, November 14, 2019, said the President has cautioned the voters , politicians and Law Enforcement officers to ‘’behave in orderly manner while the Contestants follow due process in contesting the eventual results’’. He was said to have made it clear to the Contestants that in every election that there must be winners and losers and the situation in Kogi and Bayelsa would not be different.
The Katsina state born politician , President and Commander –In –Chief of the Armed Forces, enjoined the security operatives covering the election to ensure that there was no ‘’harassment and intimidation of voters , adding that any ‘’attempt by party thugs to steal or hijack ballot boxes must be stopped using all legal means’’ but that was how far he could go.
Aware that Nigerian Politicians have not learnt anything from past elections, Muhammed Adamu, the Inspector General of Police, IGP, was said to have deployed , 241 armed policemen to provide security during the Saturday, November 16, governorship election in the two states.
Political watchers had expected the election in the two states where INEC had conducted the governorship election to be a test of supremacy between the ruling APC at the Federal level , which have the Federal might and Seriake Dickson, the PDP governor of the state , who wants to install another PDP governor in the state to continue the dynasty. He may nt have read the handwriting well on the wall as the APC leadership in the state with the support of Temipre Sylva, a former governor of the state and minister of Petroleum Resources, has perfected plans to take over the former President Goodluck Jonathan own state and hand it over to the APC.
Many believe that the PDP in the state started having problems when Jonathan Kismen started defecting to the APC beore the election. Many believe that they could not have defected to the ruling party without the approval of the former President who has a robust relationship with the Katsina state born Nigerian President.
It was not surprising that when iNEC, finally declared David Lyon, of the APC, as the governor –elect of the state in the last Saturday election in the state , after 20 years of PDP rule in the state, not many people were surprised because it was a sealed deal. In declaring Lyon, the APC, Candidate the winner,Faraday Orunmuwese, a Professor and Vice Chancellor, University of Benin who was incidentally the Returning Officer disclosed that the APC Candidate scored the highest number of votes winning in six local government areas to to Senator Douye Diri, the PDP Candidate two.
The APC, also won the Kogi governorship election as Yahaya Bello, who was said to have performed poorly in the provision of infrastructural facilities in the state and owing workers 30- month Salary arrears, despite Federal support in his first term in office was re-elected into office. Many believe that with the APC victory in the two state, many believe that Nigeria is itching twowards a one party state as the party now controls about 26 states of the federation leaving the Opposition PDP with nine states and All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, with one, Anambra .
Eyewitness account disclosed that that all the parties rigged but the APC used Federaal might to u trig other parties. The source revelaled that in most of the polling booths in the two states where the election was conducted, armed policemen could not stop the party thugs and hired mercenaries from carrying out their wish. In
The situation was so worrisome in Bayelsa state,that Dickson cried out that the governorship election had been marred by violence in different parts of the state .The governor had cited Southern Ijaw, one of the volatile local government areas in the state where many electoral officials were said to have been kidnapped under the close watch of Policemen and other security agencies personnel. He lamented that the security agencies personnel were ‘’acting out a script by conniving with the APC to rig the election .‘’Gun- throttling militiamen, with the aid of security operatives, were said to have overrun the hapless electoral officials’’.
Some Observer Groups which had covered the election including the European Union, EU, had confirmed that security operatives and electoral officials deployed to the volatile Sagbama Local government area were forced to flee when fight broke out between the supporters of the various political parties. The fight was said to have broken out in polling units 1,5,6 and 7, as ballot boxes were broken, snatched and thrown into the river by party thugs.
Signs that there would be trouble in the Bayelsa state election started during the electioneering Campaigns when violence t erupted at the PDP Campaign rally ground at Nembe Ogbolomabiri, Nembe local government area.
The rally which ought to have been attended by Dickson, the state governor to further sell Duoye Diri, the PDP Candidate to the electorate was said to have been disrupted by massive gunshots , forcing people to run in different direction for their safety.
There have been accusations and counter-accusations by the PDP and the APC over the attack. Soriwei, a PDP sympathizer claimed that ‘’thugs hired by the APC leaders in the Local government Area fired at the PDP supporters who had trooped out in their thousands to listen to the Campaign promises of Diri, the next governor of the state in order to hold him accountable for it but were prevented from do so at the gubernatorial rally by the alleged APC Thugs.
But Sylva, a former governor of the state , regarded as a political ally of Buhari, would not take it. The minister who had set up a support Organisation for David Lyon, the APC governorship Candidate in the state, Headed by one Wilfred Ogbotobo, claimed that the PDP members were the aggressors , stressing that the party had invaded the Community to intimidate the APC, supporters in their stronghold in the state.
Going by the INEC result, the PDP Candidate won 60339 votes to APC votes of 7,831 in the troubled Sagbama local government area .While the APC claimed Nembe where it scored 83,041 to PDP’s874 votes. Political analysts describe it as allocation of votes to each of the parties by the party that had the upperhand in the local government with the connivance of the INEC and Security Operatives.
The situation Bayelsa was not different from that of Kogi state. Frank Mbah, a Deputy Commissioner of Police and Force Spokesperson , noted that the violence in the Confluence state was worse than that of Bayelsa state.
Recall that Natasha Akpoti, the Candidate of the Social Democratic Party, SDP, had alleged of massive violence during the governorship election in the state, accusing Bello, the incumbent governor of the state of sponsoring the thugs to intimate her supporters which she claimed were spread throughout the nooks and crannies of the state.
She had cited the disruption of the voting in Ward 2, Lokoja, the state Capital as there was spontaneous gun into the air who were said to have made away with ballot boxes as voters in the Ajayi Crowder Memorial School , scamper for safety.
Suspected APC thugs were said to have also attempted to snatch ballot papers in Odu Ward 4, Odu Ogboyaga Ward 1 of Dekina Local government area of the state where Musa Wada, a former governor of the state and governorship Candidate of the PDP, was said to have cast his vote but were resisted by youths who threw stones and other missiles to secure the electoral materials.
The situation in Lokoja Ward 2, of Kogi state appeared worrisome as Mbah, the Force Spokesperson, noted ‘’gunshots were fired into the air by suspected thugs to scare voters away who scamper for safety as they made away with ballot boxes’’.
Note that penultimate Friday, suspected APC thugs were said to have attacked the Hotel where Seyi Makinde, governor of Oyo state and Chairman of the PDP , Kogi state Campaign Council , had lodged at Lokoja. The alleged thugs were said to have appeared in police uniforms.
But in apparent reaction to the alleged attack on the Hotel where Makinde and other PDP Chieftains had lodged ahead of the last Saturday election, in order to give their support to Musa Wada, a one-time governor of the state and the party governorship Candidate, Busari Hakeen, the state Commissioner of Police, said the police acted on information that some hoodlums were lodged in a Hotel in the Kogi state Capital. He disclosed that’’ some policemen were detailed to visit the facility to verify the information but found out that was not true’’ .
The question on the lips of most people was: the Police CP , having discovered that information was false and considering the embarrassment caused the Oyo state governor and other PDP Chieftains who were in the state, did he reach out tothem to apologise ? The CP was said to have kept it a closely guided secret until the matter became a public knowledge that he was forced to speak out. This may have given people the impression that the police in the state were working closely with the APC to ensure that Yahaya , the APC Candidate was re-elected into office at all costs.
The results of the governorship election of two states started trickling in at the state INEC, offices in Yenagoa and Lokoja respectively early on Sunday, November 18, 2019. Bello, With the results of the few local government ares released in Kogi, Bello, the state governor appears t have gotten the upper hand despite the state civil servants gang up against him over his inability to settled their 30 month- Salary arrears . He was said to have polled 112,762 votes , in Okene Local government Wada, his PDP , closest rival who got 139 votes, a clear case of outright rigging , a source said. The feat was repeated in Adavi and s Okehi local government area where the APC Candidate was said to have received64,657and 36,954 votes respectively to Wada of the PDP’S vote of366 and 478. With the votes from Okene, Adavi and Okehi, alone, Bello, the APC, governorship Candidate in Kogi look as good as having won the election with popular votes.
While the Bello Camp are already celebrating their victory, Wada, the PDP Candidate , may be putting together a legal team to challenge the result that had been announced by the electoral umpire.The PDP leadership appear to have put the Bayelsa and Kogi governorship election result behind it . ”The party will remain strong and united in the face of all odds”, it had said.
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