By Boluwaji Obahopo, LOKOJA
The November 16 governorship election may have come and gone, but the exercise left bitter pills in mouths of many. Ballot box snatching, intimidation, killings marked the election.
Only the 2007 election violence where the Egbira people from Central senatorial axis turned against themselves could compare to what happened last weekend. Then, facing an Igala man from Eastern senatorial flank, the Egbira rose against any of their kinsmen who did not support their ambition for power shift. They burnt and killed in the process, yet their son lost. Fast forward to 2019, it is ironical that the Igala seemed to have toed same line.
In spite of the scorching sun, Kogites went out last Saturday to elect a new governor, who would pilot the affairs of the Confluence State for the next four years. They defied apprehensions that the gubernatorial polls might be trailed by violence to exercise their civil responsibility.
The turnout of voters in the morning hours was impressive and by midday the queues had become longer. They completed their accreditation without any wrong incidents. The electorate also cast their ballots peacefully. But by end of voting periods, violence erupted in Lokoja, the state capital and largely in the Eastern senatorial axis.
Amidst the tale of violence and ballot snatching, the Independent National Electoral Commission announced the incumbent, Yahaya Bello as winner of the election.
The electorate voted according to tribal dictates. The Igalas who are the most populous voted for their sons, but could not enjoy their numerical advantage like in time past. Though they won seven out of the nine LGAs votes, the margin of victory paled in comparison to what the Egbira gave their kinsman, Bello in APC.
PDP candidate, Musa Wada scored 112,626 of the 202,403 votes cast in his district; giving him 63 percent, while Bello won with 236,005 out of the 244,698 votes cast in his zone, giving him 96.4 percent.
Long before the election it was obvious that any attempt to canvass for a non – Ebira man in central senatorial axis was presumed to be death on arrival. The Igalas too openly supported their own with the hope of returning to power which they retained since creation of Kogi in 1999, but by nature lost in 2015 through the death of leading candidate in the election, Late Abubakar Audu.
The voting pattern last Saturday further confirmed the ethnic cards played by the three major ethnic groups scattered across the three senatorial districts.
CANCELLATION OF VOTES
With reported cases of widespread violence, INEC presiding officer cancelled 149,576, votes; the highest number of votes cancelled in the history of the state. But largely, the election went peacefully in Kogi West and Central senatorial districts.
PRE ELECTION VIOLENCE
There was violence, top of which was the burning of SDP state Secretariat in Lokoja barely a week to the governorship election. Hoodlums suspected to be political thugs in the early hours of the Monday before election day invaded the state secretariat of the Social Democratic Party, SDP and razed it down.
The SDP state secretariat located opposite the Lokoja Local Government Secretariat near Paparanda Square, IBB Way, was first on Sunday vandalized. At the Sunday attack, the windows and doors of the Secretariat were shattered while banners, posters and other campaign materials were also destroyed.
Also, the PDP candidate boycotted completely any campaign in Central senatorial district, citing security report of possible attack if they got close to the district.
At the end of the exercise, seven persons were reported to have died in the exercise. Three at the state capital, two from Abocho in Dekina council area, one person in Aiyetoro Gbede, who incidentally was a nephew to the PDP senatorial candidate, Dino Melaye and a Kogi Poly Student who was acting as INEC Ad-hoc staff.
The state Resident electoral Commissioner, Prof. James Apam confirmed the death of the ad-hoc electoral officer in a Boat mishap in Ibaji local government Area of Kogi state while on election duty on Saturday. According to the electoral commissioner, the deceased ad-hoc staff was a student of Kogi state polytechnic in Lokoja engaged for the governorship election in the state. One only hopes, that the insurance policy INEC promised its ad-hoc staff are still in place.
While the Egbira people were busy around the state celebrating victory of their son who broke the second term jinx, the Igala engaged themselves in fist cuffs. In another the ugly incidents, a 60 years old woman was burnt alive.
Mrs. Acheju Abuh who was the Women Leader of Wada/Aro Campaign Council, Ochadamu Ward, was on Monday evening burnt alive in her home by suspected political thugs. The thugs, shooting sporadically arrived Abuh’s house at about 2pm in the afternoon and surrounded the house, blocking every exit and escape routes from outside. They then sprayed the building with petrol and set it ablaze as terrified villagers watched from afar.
She reportedly attempted to escape through a window but was prevented by the metal burglary proof. The blood thirsty thugs waited and watched while Mrs Abuh cried from inside the inferno until her voice died out. They reportedly left only when the entire house and Mrs Abuh had been burnt to ashes.
However, of greater worry were the Civil Society Groups who have been embedded in partisanship. Some of the observer groups acted as if they were working for one party or another. They also disagreed on the outcome of the election. While NGO’s like YIAGA spoke about violence and poor conduct of exercise, some other NGOs disagreed by saying the exercise went peacefully. YIAGA even called for cancellation of the exercise midway into conduct and collation of the election. Apparently, NGOs were influenced by the leading parties.
While the state was still mourning, a petrol tanker compounded the state woes when it killed 8 persons, crushed many vehicles on the day the result was declared.
Eight persons were confirmed dead on Monday in Felele, Lokoja metropolis of Kogi State following a morning road accident by a petrol Tanker which collided with other vehicles.