Rejection of poll’s outcome puts blight on Bello’s victory
•‘My victory is for true democracy, Kogi people’
The outrage and outright rejection that have trailed the outcome of the November 16th gubernatorial election in Kogi State by opposition political parties, especially the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Social Democratic Party (SDP) and civil society organisations did not come as a surprise. No doubt, some gains were recorded in the 2015 general elections when the fear of the card reader was the beginning of electoral wisdom, as the then PDP ruling party that introduced it was curtailed from rigging the election.
Hence, even before the results of the election were declared, then President Goodluck Jonathan made the historic call to congratulate his opponent, President Muhammadu Buhari. The 2015 election was adjudged by both international and local observers to be fair, credible and free. However, in the other rerun elections and the 2019 general elections, the card reader was demystified and rigging became more brazen. Results declared at polling units and ward levels no longer counted as new results were rewritten in favour of the ruling party.
There was manifest abuse of state power, as security personnel that were supposed to protect the electorate became its nightmare, as they aided and abetted ballot box snatching and other shady dealings even with the use of helicopter.
For instance, governorship candidate of Social Democratic Party (SDP), Natasha Akpoti, rejected the result of the November 16 governorship election, and called for the cancellation of the poll, especially in Kogi Central Senatorial District and some other parts of Lokoja and asked for a rerun for what she described as irregularities, intimidation, and violence amongst other.
Meanwhile, the re-elected Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, has described his re-election as a victory for true democracy. The governor, in a statement by his Director General, Media and Publicity, Kingsley Fanwo, said the governor is now poised to do more for the state.
He said, “This victory is for Kogi people that value true democracy. And we can assure the people that Governor Bello will not abandon his campaign slogan, which expresses his desire to do more for Kogi people. We thank Kogites who voted for us. We also thank Kogi people who did not vote for us; they have challenged the governor to do more for them to earn their confidence.
“We urge the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to act to exemplify the spirit of sportsmanship by accepting the verdict of Kogi people. We also thank the party hierarchy for throwing their weight behind the governor.
But Akpoti stated that it was clear the election did not hold in 780 polling units in Kogi Central and the entire state at large and that results emanated from where election did not hold. In a petition addressed to the Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmood Yakubu, the SDP candidate said election did not hold in 780 polling units in Kogi Central as a result of violence by APC thugs who she said attacked voters, electoral officials, and destroyed electoral materials.
According to her, “The APC-led thugs were shooting at voters which resulted in the death of voters. The thugs in most cases were shielded by security agents who are supposed to provide security for the citizenry .
“What happened in Kogi Central and other parts of the state is a far-cry from a credible election. Ballot boxes were destroyed and burnt in Okene, Adavi, Ajaokuta, Ogori Magongo and Okehi Local Government Areas and other part of the state.
“SDP agents were chased away from the various polling units in Kogi Central Senatorial. In some polling units SDP agents were tied with ropes by APC thugs in Okene Local Government Area; our agents were not even allowed to cone near the polling units as APC thugs were seen brandishing guns and announcing to voters not to come and vote unless they were to only vote APC.”
Also in the petition, Akpoti stated that in some polling units, there were no result sheets and 2015 stamped ballot papers were used in the conduct of the election. Also in most cases, SDP was written with pencil on the result sheet
“Ballot papers already thumb-printed by voters in favour of SDP and already tucked into the ballot boxes were sorted out by APC-led thugs and burnt”, the petition said. “The election as it is now cannot pass the test of fairness and credibility. Whatever gains INEC seemed to have achieved in the conduct of election in the past will be completely eroded if the election in Kogi Central Senatorial District and some other parts of Kogi State is allowed to stand.”
Former Governor of Kogi State, Captain Idris Wada, has challenged INEC, the National Assembly and President Buhari’s government to ensure Nigeria progressed to full time electronic voting to reduce human interface. Speaking at Odu Ogboyaga unit 001 ward 4 in Dekina Local Government Area after casting his vote along with his wife, Wada said something positive in that direction must be done if Nigeria would progress democratically.
“I have received calls and reports of various misconduct in various polling units,” he said. “People are seizing ballot boxes, ballots papers; they broke into a Registration Area Centre for ward 2 overnight and took away 7 boxes. They beat up some of NYSC staff; it is a sad development in our democracy. People should follow an orderly process and allow people perform their civic responsibility of voting for the candidate of their choice.
“Otherwise this country would not improve and there would be no development. People impose themselves as leaders and disallow a free and fair process.”
Also the governorship candidate of All Progressive Grand Alliance, Sheik Jibrin, called for the outright cancellation of the election because it did not reflect the minds of Kogi electorate, saying it has thrown the good people of Kogi State into a state of despair. He described the entire election as a rape of Nigerian’s hard-earned democracy. He wondered why the APC-led administration chose to drag the country backwards in political development. Jibrin expressed his displeasure at the way INEC and the security agencies compromised despite all assurances of free, fair, credible election and water-tight security.
Jibrin said the entire election was marred with killings, ballot snatching, ballot stuffing, falsification of results aided by INEC and security personnel, thereby disenfranchising many voters. He also asked Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to investigate why a helicopter tear-gassed voters from the sky in Lokoja thereby paving the way for hoodlums to have a field day .
Kogi State chapter of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has also rejected the results of Saturday’s gubernatorial election in the state. In a statement signed by its publicity Bode Ogunmola, the party described the election as another ‘world war,’ maintaining that the election did not reflect the wishes of Kogi electorate. PDP called for the outright cancellation of the exercise, describing it as a sham, where results were falsified.
The statement reads in part, “The exercise was marred with violence, killing and ballot snatching. Results from Okene, Adavi and Okehi were written without any conduct of election. We reject the results in totality and call for cancellation of the entire election as it fails to meet minimum standard.”
The PDP’s candidate in the election, Musa Wada, also rejected the outcome of the election, describing the results being released by INEC as a sham and a murder of democracy. He said the result as released is not a true reflection of the wishes of the people. Wada decried the militarisation of the election and security agents that worked in collusion with APC to harass and intimidate voters who came to exercise their civic responsibility.
He said the whole exercise was daylight robbery as results were being written everywhere for APC, saying it was better for INEC not to have conducted the election in the first instance, when it knew it would not respect the wishes of the people. He alleged that the sate’s Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Busari, had relocated his office to Dekina LGA collation centre where he doctored results for APC.
According to him, “Imagine Okene LGA which used to return 40,000 votes in the past elections suddenly bringing out 112,000 votes while her neighbour, Okehi also brought in 64,000, figures that will be more than the remaining local governments in the state. It is the insincerity of APC that has made the whole process a sham. It is not about Wada, but of the suffering masses of the state. I’m pained for the people that will continue to suffer for another four years .
”On whether I will get justice, it is a common knowledge about how all the institutions have been bastardised by APC government. However, I have to exhaust all legal means to get redress. Look at how the results were written by the agents of government and you can see that Lokoja, the state capital, which was agog yesterday, is a shadow of itself as nobody is celebrating. “The results are not the true representation of what happened on the field. Figures are just beng allocated. Our aim to contest is to effect positive change which the people massively gave us their votes before the government decided to kill the joy of the people.”
”We were prepared for the election; we campaigned across all the local government areas. But how can one confront a government with all their apparatus of cohesion? Imagine security agents using helicopters to teargas voters. It happened in Ganaja; some people were shot from the helicopter. In fact, two persons lost their lives.”
Diplomatic Watch deployed teams from Austria, European Union Delegation, Germany, Ireland, The Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States expressed alarm at reports of widespread incidents of violence and intimidation, some of which were witnessed by their teams in Kogi.
“There are reports of fatalities and people missing, including INEC staff. Our thoughts are with all victims and their families. We encourage all stakeholders, in particular political leaders, to call for calm and we encourage security agencies to investigate thoroughly and bring perpetrators to justice.
“We are also concerned by evident vote buying and credible reports of ballot box snatching in both Bayelsa and Kogi. We commend the commitment and resilience of voters in both states who came out to exercise their democratic rights.
“We express our sympathy for those affected by the violence, including ordinary voters, INEC officials, members of the NYSC, civil society, and the media. All should be able to carry out their fundamental roles in the democratic process free from intimidation and harassment.”
INEC, however, declared the candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC), Alhaji Yahaya Bello, winner of the poll in Kogi State. The Returning Officer of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and Vice-Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, Professor Ibrahim Garba, announced the result on Monday. Professor Garba returned Bello as the winner of the election after scoring 406,222 votes to defeat his closest rival and candidate of PDP, Wada, who scored 189,704 votes.
According to the Returning Officer of INEC, the poll recorded 610,744 valid votes, 13,777 rejected votes and 149,576 cancelled votes. Total votes cast were 624,514. The agent of PDP, Capt. Joe Agada rejected the results and declined appending his signature on the final result.
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