As the countdown to the gubernatorial elections in Kogi and Bayelsa States on November 16, begins, Nigerians are full of expectations that the exercise will be free, peaceful and conclusive and that INEC would have learnt some lessons from the previous elections and conduct a credible poll that will not be reversed by any court of law in the country
By Anayo Ezugwu
IT is election time in Kogi State. On Saturday, November 16, the electorates in the state are to file out and decide whether to continue with Governor Yahaya Bello, who is seeking re-election or elect a new governor to take over from Bello. Interestingly, the state electorates have a good number of choices to pick from. There are 23 candidates jostling to get the state plum job.
On September 30, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, published the names of candidates who emerged from the primaries conducted by their various parties. According to the INEC, the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, in the state is fielding incumbent Governor Bello as its candidate, while Musa Wada will fly the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP flag.
Similarly, other notable candidates on the list are: Aisha Abubakar Audu of the Young Progressives Party, YPP; Abdullahi Muhammed of the Accord Party, AP; Justina Dolapo Abanida of the African Democratic Congress, ADC; Ibrahim Jibril Sheik of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, and Ayodele Raymond Ajibola of the Peoples Redemption Party, PRP.
As obligatory, a good number of the candidates have been travelling round the state to sell their ideas, manifesto and canvass for votes. Nevertheless, reports from the state have shown that only Bello of the APC and Wada of the PDP, are considered to be really in contention and that either of them is likely to win at the polls.
With Bello facing criticisms over poor performance in his first tenure and the way and manner the former deputy governor was shamelessly removed from office, the election would be more of a referendum on the rejection of the much vilified Bello. As an incumbent, Bello has a lot to prove to the people of the state that he deserves to return to Lugard House in Lokoja.
As things stand, APC and its candidate, Governor Bello are desperate in their bid to retain control of the state. While the PDP and its flag bearer, Wada have vowed to resist any attempt either by the incumbent and his party or any other agencies of the government to distort the wishes of the electorate in the exercise.
Bello’s sojourn in office has witnessed series of political drama vis a vis fighting with party loyalists (former and present) such as Simon Achuba, former deputy governor of the state, who was impeached by the State House of Assembly in October. Another political opponent is Senator Dino Melaye, who decamped back to the PDP from APC after a failed recall process. Other political opponents like Natasha Akpoti of the Social Democratic Party, SDP, have also had issues with Bello.
Whatever the situation is, Governor Bello, who comes from one of the minority tribes (Ebira) has a lot of hurdles to cross. He has to convince the electorates in the state that he means well for them.
While APC and Bello are poised to retain or regain power, the other political parties are not resting on their oars in their bid to cause a power shift. But Bello seems to have the upper hand with the party hierarchy fully in support of him.
Among those who are rooting for the return of Bello is Adams Oshiomhole, national chairman, APC. He believes that the governor has performed well enough to be re-elected. Oshiomhole in a press interview said: “I think Governor Bello has shown that he has capacity and going forward he would have learnt a couple of lessons in his first term. I have passed through that process and I know that your second term is always the time you want to do those legacy projects you will like to be remembered for.
“Because the only benefits in this business is that when I leave, what would I be remembered for? The things that will drive Governor Yahaya Bello’s second term is what will be at the heart of our campaign. We have also seen the candidate nominated by the PDP, we want to make sure when we go to the field of play, Kogi people will have no problems voting for our candidate in Kogi State as their preferred candidate,” he said.
But the major opposition party, PDP is banking on infighting in the APC in the state and the bad blood created by the impeachment of the former deputy governor to win the state. Unfortunately, their calculations and chances are dimming on a daily bases. One of the areas the PDP has been banking on to dislodge the ruling party, especially the infighting that led to the controversial emergence of Bello after the sudden death of former governor Abubakar Audu few hours to the announcement of the results of the Kogi 2015 gubernatorial, has been resolved.
Another factor that seems to be making the chances of the opposition parties dim, ahead of the gubernatorial election, is the fact that other stakeholders, who have been working at variance before now in the ruling party, have gradually closed rank to ensure that the party retains power in the state.
Reports from the state have showed that one of the reasons aggravating the face-off between the two major contending parties is the calculation ahead of the 2023 election. For instance, PDP’s desperation to win Kogi is justified on the ground that in the entire six states of North Central geo-political zone, it only controls Benue state.
Therefore, pulling Kogi on its side come November 16, will be an added advantage to it ahead of 2023. On the other hand, APC needs to retain the state for proper consolidation.
Meanwhile, Bello’s campaign council has cautioned the opposition against violence during the electioneering period, stressing, “Kogi has moved away from thuggish and violent politics and any attempt to reintroduce the same will be resisted by the peace-loving people of the state through constitutional means.”
But Faruk Adejoh-Audu, special assistant on media and publicity to the PDP candidate, has denied the claims by the APC that his party is planning to cause violence during the election. He rather alerted Nigerians of a plot to disqualify Wada. He accused Bello of plotting not only Wada’s arrest, but also to subsequently influence his disqualification from the race to pave the way for the incumbent’s re-election.
Adejoh-Audu stressed that already, heavily armed thugs had been unleashed on his supporters across the state. Wada regretted that a governor, who should ordinarily depend on his record of achievements in office, was rather busy designing ignoble schemes to undermine the democratic process and impose himself on the people.
While expressing optimism that he would triumph at the gubernatorial contest, the PDP challenger declared: “The travails of Bello should be instructive to politicians all over the country that once you are guilty of misrule, you cannot be at peace when your fate lies in the hands of the masses.
“Bello can keep running to orchestrate all manner of dubious and devious plots, but that won’t save him. It is too late in the day. The time of reckoning is here! The people are resolved to evict this plague of a government on November 16, 2019, God willing,” he said.
The accusations and counter-accusations of violence during the electioneering has justified warnings by Professor Mahmood Yakubu, chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, that both Kogi and Bayelsa states may be prone to crisis before, during and after the gubernatorial elections. He told the Senate Committee on INEC, that the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security, ICCES, which he co-chairs with the National Security Adviser, NSA, was looking at how to address the issue.
“The police are the lead agency, but all other security agencies are involved. On October 8, we had a consultative meeting with the Inspector General of Police and we are working on the deployment jointly with the security agencies for the security personnel needed for the two elections.”
With the electorates ready to go to the pull, Nigerians and indeed the international community is watching INEC and APC closely on their promise of free, fair and credible elections come November 16.
– Nov. 8, 2019 @ 17:47 GMT |