By Owei Lakemfa
I WAS tempted before the November 16, gubernatorial elections in Kogi State to suggest that incumbent Governor Yahaya Bello should simply be given a second term as elections were unnecessary. This would have saved us the enormous funds wasted in the elections. Those killed before, during and after the elections, might still have been alive. Those maimed and scarred for life, buildings burnt and property destroyed might have been averted.
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I did not need to be a prophet to know that Bello would be returned to power with an overwhelming majority irrespective of what the voters decided. This is because what the voters would decide had already been decided for them by the staccato of gun fire, armed rogue policemen, a colluding electoral system and a Federal Government that was at best, indifferent.
The story of Natasha Akpoti, the candidate of the Social Democratic Party, SDP, should have taught that the elections were unnecessary. First she was banned and then reinstated by the courts. Then she was endlessly harassed, her party secretariat burnt down and when she dared show her face at a meeting of candidates, the Inspector General of Police, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and other stakeholders, she was attacked and her aide injured.
Akpoti, going by the series of attacks on her, must have seriously irritated the armed thugs but I must say she is lucky to be alive. Another lady, Mrs. Acheju Abuh, the Women Leader of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, was not as lucky. Two days after the elections, celebrating thugs set her residence at Ochadamu, in the Ofu Local Government ablaze. As the flames consumed her, the thugs shot sporadically to prevent locals from coming to her rescue.
The Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, is another person that can attest to the awesome fire power of the Kogi thugs and rogue security men. He was the chairman of the PDP Kogi State Campaign Council and was there to campaign for his party. Despite being aware that he had armed security men, the hooded thugs in police uniform staged an audacious armed attack on him at his Suitorial Hotels, Stadium Road, Lokoja at about 12.50pm. Shooting sporadically, the attackers scaled the fence and attempted to break into the hotel rooms, but the governor’s security operatives were able to repel them.
Many people felt that a governor like Bello who was owing workers salaries, seems to be above the law, is associated with violence and who cannot deliver the dividends of democracy has no business seeking a second term. But the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, thought otherwise. Two days before the elections, Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai who was chairman of APC Campaign Council for Kogi State Governorship elections, knelt down publicly to beg voters to forgive Bello for his transgressions. After all if a student fails, he should be allowed to repeat; so Bello needed to repeat as governor.
However, the Emperor showed that he did not need the votes. His women supporters in a video that went viral sang: “Who is saying Yahaya Bello will not be governor? What are you saying? What are you talking about? Dem go hear ta ta ta ta ta ta ta! (mimicking the sound of the AK 47 rifle) meaning that those who reject Bello will face the bullets. Bello told his political opponents as a matter of fact: “It is APC that will win the elections” and warned: “We come in peace, but we mean serious business…Walahi! Walahi! Monkey go go market, e no go return.”
My friend and brother, Maximus Uzoatu, the god of poetry in reviewing the historic Kogi elections wrote: “Now I agree with them, Nigeria has moved to Next Level: Democracy Without Elections”. For once since we met as teenagers in the University of Ife, I disagree with him. Who told Maxim that elections are part of democracy? In the most popular definition of democracy as: “The government of the people, by the people for the people” nowhere does election occur. Nowhere is it stated that for there to be democracy, there must be elections.
The Kogi elections teach us that what matters is not the ballot, but the bullet. It is not a matter of those who count the votes deciding everything. No! Both those who cast the votes and those who count them are not as powerful as the armed thugs. One beautiful lesson the Kogi elections have taught us is that there can be a seamless synergy amongst the real and fake security officers, the armed thugs who snatch ballot boxes and thumb print, and the electoral officers who announce results of phantom elections.
Kogi State is an example of a polity that invests heavily in violence rather than the economy; in thugs, not the people. As for the people; they do not matter in the scheme of things. Reminds me of a Swahili saying of dispossessed and disempowered people: “Our work is just to clap; we don’t even know why we are clapping.” So whatever they are told, they clap.
While picking up his certificate from the INEC which confirmed his victory, Bello was quite magnanimous in advising the losers to challenge his victory in court. He could have asked them to meet him on the battle fields of Kogi where he knows he has unmatched fire power. Well-meaning Nigerians have already congratulated the Emperor for his well-deserved victory.
I was quite touched by President Muhammadu Buhari’s well thought out congratulatory message to Bello. It read: “Congratulations to Governor Yahaya Bello on his re-election. It was a race well run and a victory well won. I urge him to see his renewed mandate as another opportunity to build on the foundations already laid towards improving the lives of the people of Kogi State.” Surely, Bello’s legacy is a worthy one to be built on not just for the future of Kogi State, but the entire country. I also join in congratulating him for seizing a constitutional second term. I wish him a 21-gun victory salute worthy of an emperor in a democracy.
His Excellency Yahaya Bello is an invention of our convoluted political system; he is a fearsome man-child any political father will be proud of and has become so powerful that even those who invented him, may no longer be able stop him. Given his awesome fire power in the battle field of electoral battles, pugilistic style of leadership and unique sense of governance, I do not see His Excellency completing his second term; rather, I see him moving up to the next level to succeed the man he calls his political father, as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 2023.