By Lateef Adegbite AndElizabeth Chukwuma
When Kayode Egbetokun, Inspector General oof Police , IGP, assured Nigerians that the Force is adequately prepared for the Saturday, November 11, 2023, governorship elections in Bayelsa, home state of former President Goodluck Jonathan, Imo and Kogi states, not many people took him very seriously.
This is because the Force had made similar promises in the past of going to collaborate with other security agencies to give cover to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, personnel and safeguard the electoral umpire sensitive electoral materials to ensure that the elections will be hitch -free in the states but turned to be a ruse.
The police personnel on election duty in the three states where Mahmood Yakubu, a professor led Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, had conducted this year’s off-season governorship election were said to have been drawn from the 33 states of the Federation and Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, to support the already existing security architecture in the states.
Given the problems associated with the off-season elections may have informed why former President Jonathan had appealed to the national Assembly Lawmakers to do everything within their powers ‘’to bock the off-season elections’’ describing ‘’ it as very odd’’. It is not a global best practice, he added.
The former Nigerian President who could not hide his feelings had warned that if we continue with this trend of off-season elections based on the interpretation of the country’s electoral Laws by the Judicial officers, a time will come would come when the country’s Presidential election will be held off-season which may tell good of our electoral system. He had alluded to the North American country of the United States, US, electoral system as everybody knows when the country ‘s elections will be held and work towards it.
Given the tension in Imo state, where Senator Hope Uzodinma, the APC , governor of the state was said to have to have penetrated the ranks of the security agencies and INEC officials in the state the IGP, who was not ready to take any excuse from the state Police Command for any breakdown of Law and order in the conduct of the governorship election was said to have deployed Mohammed Barde , the Adamawa state born, Commissioner of Police in the state to the Force Headquarters, ahead of the governorship election in the state.
Prof. Yakubu, the INEC, Chairman, on his part, may have gladdened the heart of Nigerians when he disclosed that the off-season governorship in the southern eastern state of Imo, north central state of Kogi and the south-south state of Bayelsa will be a different compared to the previous elections that had been conducted in the country in the past as the results will be uploaded on its result viewing portal.
The INEC, boss was emphatic that the Commission would follow the Law s for accreditation and results collation during the elections in the three states of Imo, Kogi and Bayelsa . He noted that this is the method that was provided by Law , electronic accreditation , electronic upload of results on the Commission’s REV portal.
Going by permutations, by political analysts, , the governorship elections in Imo state is a three horse race between the trios of Senator Hope Uzodinma, described as a Supreme Court appointed governor of Imo state and who is seeking re-election, , Samuel Anyanwu of the Opposition People’s Democratic Party , PDP and Athan Achonu of the Labour party, LP.
Achonu had expected to ride on the back of Peter Obi , a former governor of Anambra state and Presidential Candidate of the LP, in the February 25, 2023, Presidential election to repeat what Alex Otti, did in Abia state to defeat, Okezie Ikpeazu, an incumbent governor. Many believe that if the PDP and LP, Candidates had done their home work before coming out to contest against Uzodinma of the APC, believed to be very unpopular because of t the activities of the Indigenous People Of Biafra, IPOB, linked to Nnamdi Kanu, currently in Department Of State Security Service, DSS, custody, one of them could have have the Imo state state governorship election. Instaed , they gave room to the old war horse to take advantage of their political naivety to beat them even in their own Local government Areea.
, There were cases of political thugs, invading polling units and carted away result sheets. An instance was given of Oguta Local government Area in the state, where one Egwe Egbuoma , the INEC, presiding Officer at Town School, Oguta, had confirmed that political thugs came in motorbikes and took away her polling booth result sheets. The INEC Presiding Officer was said to have reported the incident to state INEC Director at Owerri for new result sheets to be sent them to enter the Candidates’ votes but that was how far she could go..
The situation was the same in several other polling units in the state, fueling speculations making the rounds that either the security operatives on election duty have been compromised or they were not ready to their work to avoid stepping on toes. This is an indications that Nigerian Politicians still see elections as a do or die affair.
Senator Uzodinma would not take it from those accusing him and his loyalists of having rigged the Imo state governorship elections. Note that Senator Uzodinma, had cleared the 27 Local government Areas of the state . This may emboldened to say that he actually won the state governorship election in 2019 but was cheated until the Supreme Court came to the rescue. This time around the APC flag bearer had pulled 540,308 votes to beat Anyanwu of the PDP , who garnere 71,503 votes and Achonu of the LP, who got 64,081 votes.
Many had expected a tough electoral battle in Kogi state between Senator Dino Melaye ,the governorship Candidate of the PDP and Usman Ododo of the APC. But Murtala Ajaka, the Social Democratic Part, SDP, governorship Candidate in the state, who was said to have documented all his evidence to head to the Court had said that the north central state governorship election was rigged in favour of of Ododo of the APC.
The situation in Imo state may not have been different from what has happened in Kogi state where the INEC Returning Officer had declared Ododo, of the APC as having won the governorship election with 446,237 votes to Ajaka’s 259,052 votes and Melaye of the PDP, 46,362 votes.
Ajaka, the SDP Candidate, would not accept the Kogi state governorship reslts , insisting that APC , Candidate votes was inflated. He had cited the case of Okene Local government Area of the state. According to him the Local government Area had turned out over 130,00 votes but what is on the BVAS, as the accredited number of voters for the election was less than30, 000 .
He haad said ‘’ If we knew it would be the same old music , we would have played along with that by inflating the results from my own area’’. He may have sent a message to the INEC Authorities that if they dare allow the inflated election figures in the state to stand they may be courting for trouble in future elections in the state.
The Kogi state SDP flag bearer may have shocked Nigerians when he revealed that that prior to the Saturday, November 11, governorship election in the state, the result sheets were already everywhere in the whole of Kogi Central Senatorial district. This may have informed why he had told those cares to listen that if they had known that they were going into the jungle , they would have ‘’prepared for a jungle arrangement’’. Kogi state governorship results were written before he election proper, Ajaka insists.
Melaye, the PDP , governorship Candidate was said to have corroborated Ajaka of the SDP’s claims when he declared that ‘’filled result sheets were discovered in several polling units in the state’’ , noting that that INEC officials in the state cannot claim ignorance of it.
The situation in the oil rich Bayelsa state is appear to be more worrisome. Analysts had expected the governorship election in the state to be a straight contest between Senator Douye Diri of the PDP and Temipre Sylva, a -one-time governor of the state and immediate past minister of State , Petroleum Resources, under former President Muhammadu Buhari’s Administration, contesting on the platform of the APC.
With what Senator Uzodinma, had done in Imo state to retain power in the state may have informed why the Diri appointed Commissioners and members of the state House of Assembly had laid siege on the INEC Headquarters in Yenagoa, the state Capital to ensure that the incumbent governor was not rigged out . The aggrieved Commissioners and Lawmakers may have laid siege on the state INEC Premises on Sunday, November 12, 2023, because of what had happened at the Nembe Local government area of the state.
It was reported that on the eve of the governorship election in the riverine state , a Supervisory Presiding Officer, SPO, with the state INEC was abducted by thugs while waiting to board a boat at the Amssoma Jetty in Sagbama Local government Area of the state. That much was confirmed by Wilfred Ifogah, Head of Voter Education and Publicity of the state INEC in yEnagoa.
Until, Faruq Kuta, a Prof and Vice Chancellor, University of Technology Mininna, the INEC Returning Officer, adjourned the collation of the Bayelsa state governorship election results on Sunday, November 12, 2023, Diri of the PDP , had won five out of the six Local government Areas that was said to have been declared , leaving one for his closest rival, Sylva of the APC.
According to the INEC ,report, the PDP Cadidate had won in Kolokuma /Opkuma, Ogbia, Yeanagoa, Sagbama and Ekeremor while Sylva won in Nembe , which is still being contesed by the ruling PDP in the state. The APC, governorship Candidate had puled 22,248 votes to Diri of the PDP’S 4,556 votes in Nembe Local government Area of the state. As at press time, results in Southern Ijaw and Brass Local government Areas of the state are still being expected.
Shehu Musa, a -one time Senator of Federal Republic of Nigeria, had said hat going by he results that have been declared so far by the INEC, Retrunig Officer in the state, the PDP, Candidate is as good as having won the goverNORship election in the state.