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Tragic Kogi, troublesome Bayelsa; harsh outcrops for APC

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OYEGUN

APC National Chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun

THE electoral confusion pervading the Kogi State landscape seems to have been compounded by the recent adoption of Alhaji Yahaya Bello as the substitute governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC). It is often said that two wrongs do not make a right. The death of Prince Abubakar Audu was not the fault of any one. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) through its chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, has washed its hands of any wrong doing in its declaration of the first election inconclusive.

The electoral umpire has also made strenuous efforts to justify the green light it accorded the APC to replace its flag bearer in the former election. It is at the juncture of perfecting the electoral requirement that the APC, which happens to be Nigeria’s ruling party, presented itself for scrutiny. For as long as the puzzle represented by Kogi State’s troubled governorship election lasts, APC’s capacity to manage the weight of success will remain under constant inquiry.

That the Kogi supplementary election has been scheduled for December 5, 2015, the same day as the governorship poll in Bayelsa State, makes a tricky coincidence. Already signs of possible bloody inter-party contest, in the Bayelsa outing, are in the air. While the former federal ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is in present control of the governorship, the top contending candidate, Timipreye Silva, is a member of the present federal ruling party, APC.

Apart from the festering inter-party rivalry between PDP and APC, ego is in the mix of the considerations driving the charged gubernatorial election. Sylva, was denied a second term after serving as governor of the state, under curious political calculations. The incumbent, Governor Henry Seriake Dickson, is seeking a second term. Both men want to prove a political point that they have arrived as political leaders in their own right. Overshadowing that search for individuality, both men – challenger and incumbent- are unwittingly trying to justify the confidence reposed on them by their backers. In that context, the Bayelsa governorship could be viewed as a shadow proxy war between the leadership of APC, that orchestrated the abortion of the second term ambition of former President Goodluck Jonathan, and the PDP, which is in power in the former president’s home state.

Last week, the media was awash with reports of an attempt by some shadowy elements to embarrass the immediate past president in the state capital. To a large extent, the former Nigerian leader is seen as a political father-figure in Bayelsa. He is a staunch supporter for Dickson’s second term aspiration. Not long ago, another notable pillar of the Dickson campaign, Chief Diepreye Alamieseigha, kicked the bucket, creating a lamentable void in the collegiate support for the incumbent to retain his tenancy at the Creek Haven. Following the attack on Dr. Jonathan’s convoy, there were mixed responses. Some mooted the idea that a similar scenario that played out in 2010 when the former president’s country home was bombed was planned, ostensibly to remove the remaining strong pillar of support for Dickson and leave the field open for the new kids in town to test their clout. Others said the incident was not pre-mediated but spontaneous reaction of impoverished youth in search of handouts.  Though the police made some arrests, it had earlier explained that there was no attack intended against the former number one citizen, pointing out that the boys mistook the convoy for one of the governorship candidates.

The threat of violence is at amber colour. Attempts have been made to bring the gladiators to a round table understanding and agreement on the need to eschew violence and admonish their supporters against acts capable of engendering panic or apprehension in the state. During the meeting the major combatants signed the undertaken for peaceful conduct even as they collectively resolved to abide by the peace accord. It is easy for such good proposals to be consented to and receive commitment, but the suspicion is that supporters of the various candidates have not been adequately sensitized and mobilized against violence.

For instance, the two upfront candidates have bandied hate speeches and derogatory name-calling against each other. There is no doubt that such disposition could inspire on the supporters camps that the peace treaty was only meant to gesticulate to the media and whoever it might concern.  Against the background of this prospect of possible resort to acts of intimidation and physical demonstration of viciousness, the federal government should do whatever is needed to provide the enabling environment for maximum number of voters to come out and perform their civic obligation. But above all, if the Bayelsa governorship election reveals violent exchanges or any such untoward happenstance, it would be a bad testimony against the ruling party. If the elections in Ekiti and Osun during the PDP era ended without breach of peace, the onus is now on APC to show that it could be democratic enough to provide for a level playing field for all stakeholders.

Coming barely two weeks after its tempestuous outing in Kogi, the Bayelsa election would be another test for the Professor Mahmood Yakubu-led electoral umpire. Interestingly, the commission has indicated its insistence on the use of the permanent voters’ cards (PVCs) and the card readers. Such clear statements help election monitors to evaluate the level of compliance during the balloting. Professor Yakubu, who spoke through the INEC national commissioner for North Central, Mrs. Amina Zakari during an interaction with journalists in Yenagoa, remarked that the commission has made all necessary arrangements to ensure a credible poll. Disregarding the rumours making the rounds that some candidates have finalized plans to rig the election without cloned PVCs, the INEC boss maintained that his commission would make it possible for every eligible voter to vote stressing that “whether along the coastline or mainland, you will not be disenfranchised.”

While regretting that the supply of PVCs to some local councils, in the state was delayed, the INEC chairman disclosed that additional 52,000 PVCs have been supplied and handed over to the Resident Electoral Commissioner. He explained that the commission alongside other stakeholders would discuss the modalities of ensuring that the cards get to their bonafide owners. The card readers, he noted, have passed all verifiable tests adding that for that reason, “we insist that no card reader, no voting.” He said however that wherever incident forms are to be used, the instruction is that the voters should be verified through provision of passport photographs that tallies with the picture on the voters’ cards.

On its part, the Police have given assurances of adequate security. The Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mr. Solomon Arase, while disclosing that 14, 000 police officers would be on duty for the election, warned his men against conducts that are unprofessional and capable of dragging image of the federal government and that of Force in the mud. Arase, who spoke during a stakeholders’ meeting in Yenagoa, added that one Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) and three Commissioners of Police would support the number of officers even as he assured that the atmosphere for a peaceful, free and fair election would be provided. He said: “We are going to lock down the waterways. A DIG would supervise the election with three additional commissioners and about 15 units of police mobile force. So, we are very ready. We have a unique identity for each policeman we are going to deploy for the election; the use fake policemen would not be possible. Anybody who has invested in trying to get uniforms or get in fake policemen, I think that is bad investment. It cannot work.”

Though the IG denied that the police could be influenced to act in such a way to serve the electoral interest of either of the parties, a lot depends on the preparedness of the ruling APC to demonstrate that it exists to serve the greater interest of Nigeria. If not, a bloody Bayelsa governorship election would put the party in bad light and above all convince Nigerians that the party was not prepared to shoulder the responsibilities and challenges of success. Bayelsa people would also divorce all animosities and make their voices heard in definite choice of their next governor so as not to leave room for potentates to enjoy unmerited mandates. The journey to Bayelsa governorship is therefore another opportunity to test Nigeria’s electoral system.


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