Governorship elections are slated to hold in Kogi and Bayelsa States tomorrow, Saturday, November 16 but all the signs in the days leading up to these elections are ominous. All this week, reports of violence, intimidation, arson and killings pervaded the atmosphere in the two states and left voters in fear for their lives. In Bayelsa Statefor instance, five persons were killed and many others were injured on Wednesday when thugs attempted to prevent a Peoples Democratic Party[PDP] campaign rally from taking place in Nembe Ogbolomabiri. Among those killed was Simon Onu, a journalist with Bayelsa State Broadcasting Corporation. He was said to have been felled by a stray bullet.
Adding to the confusion was yesterday’s judgment by a Federal High Court in Yenagoa which disqualified APC candidate David Lyon from tomorrow’s election. The court judgment was sequel to in-fighting within APC, leading to a case filed by former minister Heineken Lokpobiri, one of its governorship aspirants who said Lyon was not the authentic winner of the APC primary election. Needless to say, disqualifying a major candidate on the eve of the election has created a very serious security situation in the state.
In Kogi State, there is tension in all three senatorial districts over the activities of thugs who are said to be armed with dangerous weapons to unleash terror on opposition elements. For instance, on Monday, suspected thugs set fire to the campaign office of Social Democratic Party [SDP]candidate Natasha Akpoti in Lokoja. Furniture, documents, electrical equipment and campaign materials of the candidate were all destroyed. This attack puzzled observers because the building, which was earlier vandalized by thugs last Saturday,is a few meters away from the Kogi State Police Command headquarters.
Four days ago,thugs also assaulted Natasha Akpoti at an election stakeholders’ meeting in the full glare of security agents who failed to raise a finger to stop them. Other political parties in Kogi governorship elections have raised alarm over arms proliferation, thuggery and threats to the lives of their supporters. On Wednesday, PDP leaders in Kabba, Kogi West Senatorial District, were attacked by armed thugs. Prominent among the victims was Joseph Dada, whose house was riddled with bullets and cars were destroyed.
The atmosphere in Kogi and Bayelsa ahead of tomorrow’s elections is very scary. We, therefore, call on the Inspector General of Police,Mohammed Adamu, to ensure the protection of lives and property and bring to book individuals or groups who attempt to foment trouble. There are fears that security and law enforcement agencies have been politicized and are being controlled by some candidates or political parties. The police must demonstrate neutrality in these elections and urgently reverse some steps taken, including the deployment of CSP Usman Musa, a former ADC to Governor Yahaya Bello, as officer-in-charge of security for INEC Registration Area Centers. Such posting shows that the police are insensitive to calls for them to be above board in the elections.
On the part of the Independent National Electoral Commission [INEC], Kogi and Bayelsa elections, two off-season polls after the general elections, give the electoral umpire an opportunity to redeem its image which received bashing in many areas during the 2019 elections. The electoral umpire should apply some of the lessons learnt from the last general elections and ensure that Bayelsa and Kogi elections are transparent, free and fair. We call on INEC to demonstrate that it can conduct an election that would be considered free and fair by all stakeholders. We urge them to resist pressures from corrupt politicians who would want to buy the integrity and conscience of presiding and electoral officers with money. Moreover, we call on politicians and political parties to respect the will of the people. They are aspiring to serve the people. Therefore, they should not deal treacherously or kill the same people they want to serve.