By Rotimi Fasan
THE much-anticipated governorship elections of Kogi and Bayelsa states have been won and lost. It has now been three days since both states were called for the governing All Progressives Congress. Their candidates were declared winners in the charade that played out as an election before local and international observers.
After surviving the initial scare of a Federal High Court judgment disqualifying him from taking part in the governorship election in Bayelsa State, David Lyon, the APC candidate, has since gone ahead to contest and win the election. Justice Jane Inyang had, within two days, to the Bayelsa election ruled, in a suit brought before it by Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, that the APC had no candidate for the election. According to her, the primary election that produced the APC candidate was flawed.
That the election went ahead in spite of this judgement and the restrain placed on the Independent National Electoral Commission not to recognise the APC candidate, may yet spell trouble for the APC as the days go by and the legal challenges that are the usual outcome of elections here are followed through. But under a thick cloud of violence perpetrated by different sides to the electoral contest, Lyon was able to defeat the Peoples Democratic Party candidate.
There are yet no reliable figures of the number of lives and property lost in the electoral infamy. What nobody is contesting is that many lives were lost. Nembe, in particular, was the major flashpoint, a war zone in which none but only the stout-hearted could operate. Contrary to what is the norm in states controlled by an incumbent governor, Bayelsa State buckled under the superior federal might deployed by Abuja, giving way to the APC. Not even the support of President Goodluck Jonathan, a Bayelsa indigene, could swing the election in favour of the party of the former president. Indeed, there have been images of wild celebrations by supposed indigenes of the former president’s community, rejoicing at the loss incurred by the PDP.
Seriake Dickson, the two-time governor of the state, found that the incumbency magic that enable sitting governors to ‘deliver’ states under their control was of no effect. He was one of the first persons to call for the cancelation of the elections in Bayelsa. Dickson could not have understood what hit him. It must all have seemed to him like a bad dream. Bayelsa slipped through his finger in spite of the eight long years he spent on the saddle as governor. This is turning the political world of this man upside down.
With the loss of the state to the APC is the loss of whatever clout he has as a power broker in the state. Even his place in the national space is now more precarious than ever. For one, he could forget any plan to retire to the National Assembly, in the immediate future, as has become the tradition with ex-governors. Except, perhaps, he chooses to jump ship in a manner that has become all too common for politicians of today. Power from Abuja has deprived Seriake Dickson what could have been the sole consolation for his exit from the government house: the ability to be a godfather.
If David Lyon rode on the crest of federal might to power, the same federal might has proven immensely beneficial to Yahaya Bello. The APC candidate and his followers could hardly contain themselves in the days leading up to the election.
Long before the results of the election were out, after their announcement was suspended on Sunday evening, they had gone about with the sure knowledge that the election was theirs to win. Not because they had the record to justify such expectation. It was simply that they knew they had the means to ensure victory for themselves. That Yahaya Bello was declared winner is a testimony to just how the true voices of the people of this country have been silenced. Indeed, the announcement that he won the election and is thereby returned for another four-year term would suggest he was re-elected after his first four years in office.
The truth, which is well known to all Nigerians, is that last weekend’s election was the first that Bello would experience as governor. The closest he came to contesting an election as a candidate of any sort was when he stood for the APC primaries that he had lost to the late Abubakar Audu.
But in the twisted political calculations of Nigerian politicians, a man whose name was not on the ballot was preferred over and above the running mate of Audu who after winning the 2015 election died, rather unfortunately, shortly before he was sworn in as governor.
Those who selected Yahaya Bello knew what they were about. They knew their man and were certain he would not fail to play the part of a common courtier. The only charitable thing most people other than those on his pay roll have to say about him is that he is the youngest governor in the current political experiment.
I certainly don’t know how that could qualify as an achievement. But Bello appears to take pride in that recognition and happily wears it on his sleeves like a badge of honour. He goes about like the spoilt child of a doting grandfather based in Abuja. Otherwise, he is one of the most retrogressive upstarts to ever bear the title of governor in Nigeria.
He is a very poor specimen of the much-talked about ‘leaders of tomorrow’. There is hardly anything to recommend him as a governor. Kogi State under him was synonymous with many months of unpaid salaries.
What he does best is to fawn around President Buhari and display blind loyalty for anything that comes out of Aso Villa. Spoilt upstart that he is, he once broke an ankle after he fell off a moving vehicle from which he had been throwing money at the same immiserated Kogites that he has won a second term to misgovern.
Clearly, there was no way Yahaya Bello could have won the last election without the massive deployment of military and paramilitary forces in his favour. Ten Aisha Buhari could not have persuaded the people of Kogi had the electoral process not been compromised by unbridled state-sponsored violence.
Nor could a hundred Nasir el Rufai kneeling, bowing and rolling on the floor, have changed the resolve of the people of that state to do away with the political infestation that was Yahaya Bello’s misrule.
Which is not saying the opposition is not complicit in the mayhem that marked the election. But Yahaya Bello deserved and took the gold medal for violence. Once again, the people have been duped, their voice has been stolen.