To anyone who may have dismissed the disclosure by the Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmood Yakubu, before the Senator Kabiru Ibrahim Gaya-led Senate Committee on INEC, that both Kogi and Bayelsa states may be prone to crisis before, during and after the scheduled November 16, 2019 gubernatorial elections, the ongoing mudslinging, accusations and counter-accusations among stakeholders in Kogi seem a confirmation of Yakubu’s assessment.
As things stand, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and its candidate, Governor Yahaya Bello appear to be desperate in their bid to retain control of the state just as the major opposition, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its flag bearer, Mr. Musa Wada has 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.
While the two major political parties 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.
The situation has been made worse by the recent alleged disqualification of the Social Democratic Party’s (SDP) gubernatorial candidate, Natasha Akpoti, a development the PDP flag-bearer, Wada, alleged was masterminded by Bello and the APC as part of the ruling party’s desperation to cling to power irrespective of the desire of the voters.
Although, Yakubu told the senate committee that his commission had experienced the kind of situation that arose during the conduct of primaries by political parties and one or two incidents in Kogi with the commencement of campaigns by political parties, he however, said 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.
According to him, “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.”
Confirming Yakubu’s fears, the Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the PDP candidate, Mr. Faruk Adejoh-Audu has 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.”
While reacting, Governor Bello said PDP needs to wash itself of the ashes of the past, adding that the party also needs to devise a means smartly and fast too to shed the inglorious idea of blaming everyone for their self-inflicted anti-democratic tendencies and characteristics.
Bello, who spoke through his Director-General, Media and Publicity, Kingsley Fanwo, told The Guardian: “The gadfly approach cannot spark an ignoble debate from us. PDP had a disrupted primary and those aggrieved in their party, who felt justice was not served, went to court. As far as we are concerned, it is PDP vs. PDP. So what is GYB’s business in an aborted primary election in PDP? Propaganda and cheap lies won’t save PDP from the impending humiliation on November 16.”
While expressing outrage at the level of resources being committed to the plot to eliminate his name from the ballot, Wada said his camp is “in possession of recorded conversations and other evidences that prove that PDP’s Vice Chairman of Ogugu Ward 3, Olamaboro Local Government Area, Mr. John Abraham, which is also the ward of Mr. Edward Onoja, APC’s deputy gubernatorial candidate, was induced with the sum of N20 million to take up a dubious litigation to undermine the primaries of PDP.
Wada said: “As at the time of the conversation, the rural PDP executive member of humble means has already been advanced the sum of N1 million to meet four lawyers, including a Senior Advocate of Nigerian (SAN), hired by Bello’s government, to execute their atrocious plot. We challenge the outgoing government to deny this revelation.
“We heard of this plot immediately it was hatched and expected that they will go to court and serve us with the processes to enable us to join issues immediately, but it’s now obvious that there’s a sinister twist to even this craven process, because whilst there’s been reports of the suit in the media since almost three weeks ago, we have neither been served nor have we been able to confirm in what court it was instituted or if it was instituted at all.
“But the Bello campaign has continued to boast and threaten that the PDP will not have a candidate at the polls until the court has decided. The latest of these threats was the one uttered by the campaign Director-General, the Senator that represented Kogi West District in the 7th Senate, Mr. Smart Adeyemi, at a press conference in Lokoja last Friday.”
Meanwhile, one of the areas the PDP has been banking on to trash 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.
One of the principal actors of APC, Bola Tinubu who was bent on installing his preferred candidate and running mate to Audu, James Faleke recently came out to express support for Bello’s re-election. Faleke too has reverted to the legislative duty where he is currently representing Ikeja Federal Constituency in Lagos State.
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 next month.
From The Guardian’s investigation, 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. So, pulling Kogi on its side come November 16, will be an added advantage to it ahead 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.”
The leadership of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), and National Conscience Party (NCP), in separate conversations with The Guardian, tasked INEC and the Federal Government to ensure that the election is free, fair, and credible.
The positions of the parties come on the premise that the presidency is allegedly interested in the re-election of Bello, who is considered to be unpopular among the electorate.
National Chairman of ADC, Chief Ralph Nwosu, while expressing confidence that the party has picked the most qualified and popular candidate to fly its flag, a former Secretary to Kogi State Government and seasoned lawyer, Chief (Mrs.) Justina Dolapo Abanida said the party has all it takes to defeat the incumbent governor and also dust PDP if the election was free and fair.
According to Nwosu, “All we expect from INEC is to create a level-playing ground for all the parties and candidates in the race to Kogi and Bayelsa Government Houses and I can bet it that ADC stands better chance to defeat the two major parties in the race.”
For Kogi, he said ADC had entered into a strong partnership with critical stakeholders in the state ahead of the election. “We already have the support of the womenfolk, youth and elders who are yearning for change, especially from the four dark years of Governor Bello, which has forced the state on its knees.”
The ADC national chairman also expressed confidence that something new and drastic will take place in Bayelsa if INEC is neutral in the contest, noting, “We are banking on the fact that Nigerians are now wiser and ready to protect their votes.”