Ahead of Saturday, November 11 gubernatorial elections in Imo, Bayelsa and Kogi states, tension is high, particularly in Imo and Kogi states, where the indices are not looking so good.
There are fears as threats of violence loom large, especially in the two states.
It was the same scenario in the two states during the 2023 general elections.
Feelers show that though residents are desirous of coming out en-masse during the polls, they are afraid of losing their lives.
They are equally skeptical and concerned that the electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), might not deliver free, fair and credible elections, considering what happened during the 2023 general elections.
The destruction of posters of the opposition candidates in states like Imo and Kogi, the physical attacks on party supporters and the malfunctioning of the BVAS machines have not helped matters either.
However, President Bola Tinubu had during the handing over of the All Progressives Congress, APC, flag to the party’s candidates in the elections at the Banquet Hall of the Aso Rock Villa, called for free, fair, and transparent elections in the three states.
“All I am asking for is free and fair elections. I believe we will do well,” President Tinubu charged the stakeholders, comprising the three candidates, Hope Uzodinma (Imo), Usman Ododo (Kogi), and Timipre Sylva (Bayelsa), the party’s national chairman, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, and his National Working Committee (NWC) members, among others.
President Tinubu was optimistic that his party would emerge victorious in the electoral contests and he hinged his optimism and conviction on hard work, candidates’ records and the collective efforts of the party officials and members of the APC NWC.
“I want to thank the Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello, who is working hard to ensure a handover to our candidate, Usman Ododo. We are happy to have Hope Uzodinma, the great hope of our party and chairman of the APC Progressives Governors Forum. Thank you for the good job you are doing.
“Timipre Sylva, congratulations on what you have achieved as a former governor and former minister. We are all facing this crusade for democracy, particularly in this time of elections.
“It is our hope and we have Hope Uzodinma as a candidate, that we will always come out victorious. I want to thank the active national leadership of our party, the NWC, and our hardworking chairman. He is doing a good job, and I thank him very much,” President Tinubu stated.
However, despite the president’s call for free, fair and credible elections in the three states, an elite organization of Kogi professionals, Club 582 has asked President Tinubu to ensure a probe into the recent killings in the state.
A statement by the president of the organization, Samuel Onekutuon, on Wednesday, noted that despite the deployment of security operatives, violent activities were on the rise in the state.
The Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Kayode Egbetokun recently ordered the deployment of security operatives to Imo, Kogi and Bayelsa for the governorship elections on November 11.
Following the IGP’s order, it was reported that about 40,000 police officers had been deployed to Kogi State.
However, Onekutu said some residents were still killed on Tuesday in Anyigba town, due to a clash by political parties.
“We, the entire members of Club 582, an elite group of like-minded citizens of Kogi State, wish to appreciate the Federal government for its commitment to peace and security in Kogi, Imo and Bayelsa states during the weekend election in the three states.
“We are particularly delighted that the government is determined to stamp out thuggery and the senseless killings that have come to define elections and the grim struggle for power in Kogi State. We have no cause to doubt the sincerity of the government in its efforts to put an end to the senseless killings orchestrated by political groups in the state.
“But, we are worried that despite the deployment of armed troops to the state for Operation Safe Conduct, Anyigba, the social and commercial headquarters of Igala land, on Tuesday, witnessed another show of senseless violence. As usual, there are conflicting reports.
“One said the political party in power in the state sent rogue troops, disguised as security agents, to waylay the residence of a political opponent where five persons, including a policeman, were killed. Another report countered this and said a combined force of law enforcement officers went there to stamp out thugs.
“Kogi State in the last eight years has been a veritable killing field and the citizens of the state, who have been unwilling witnesses to the bloodbath, have lost confidence in the ability of the government to protect them. But, we can’t blame them.
“On the approach of any election, security agencies were never tired of assuring the people of peace and security. But, the opposite has always been the case. In 2019, despite similar assurances by the government, a police helicopter was used by the government in power not only to scare away voters, but also to kill and maim them.
“This election is the first to be conducted under the watch of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu. We want our people to be given the assurance of the security of their lives and limbs during this election and at all other times,” the statement read.
In Imo State, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is also calling for the redeployment of the Imo State Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Prof. Sylvia Agu, insisting that the Imo people would not accept the result of any electoral process with Agu.
A statement by the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, charged the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, to emulate the IGP, Egbetokun, who had earlier redeployed the Commissioners of Police in Imo, Kogi and Bayelsa, following similar calls by concerned citizens.
Close watchers of political developments in Kogi and Imo, particularly are afraid that violence of unprecedented proportions might well be in the offing, and are calling on the security agents to adequately protect the voters and residents, by being proactive in intelligence gathering and response.
In Imo State, there are reports that opposition candidates’ posters are not seen anywhere in Owerri, the state capital.
“Anybody that stands against the APC in Imo State is crushed. The governor brooks no opposition. You can see what happened to the president of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Joe Ajaero for daring to challenge the government over the plight of the Imo workers.
“He was accused of being a member of the opposition Labour Party (LP) and was almost killed in a brutal attack by thugs and some policemen.
“The claim by the police that Ajaero was not arrested but taken into protective custody was all lies; he was actually arrested after he was brutally beaten but because there was public outcry and condemnation, they came up with that excuse as a face saving measure,” a concerned Imo resident, Christian Ekezie told DAILY POST.
However, in Kogi, the story is not different. The candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) alleged that he had been attacked for almost 30 times and nobody has been arrested in connection with those attacks.
What happened during the 2019 election in Kogi is still very fresh in the minds of many. The level of violence that characterized the election was unprecedented and many have expressed concerns that if nothing is done, another violence of the same magnitude or even worse could repeat itself in the coming Saturday elections in the state.
In Bayelsa, the situation is not as tense and precarious as it is in Imo and Kogi, except for the recent threat credited to the deputy governorship candidate of the APC, Joshua Maciver.
Maciver was alleged to have told the APC supporters in the state during a campaign to drive anyone who misbehaves on Election Day into the sea to die.
“Let us be prepared on the 11th, don’t joke with anybody. If anyone misbehaves in Twon-Brass, chase am go enter the sea make him die. Una dey hear (drive them into the sea, let them die. Do you hear)? Chase am make him die (chase them, let them die). After all, e no go be the first person to die (after all, such a person won’t be the first to die). So, let us be prepared and let us show them that this time around when we take it, we are taking it for finals,” he was reported to have said.
Again, the ruling PDP in the state is also alleging that the opposition politicians are amassing weapons and equipping thugs to cause mayhem and disrupt the peaceful, free and fair conduct of the elections.
For the president, Niger Delta Nationalities Forum, Seigha Manager, elections in Nigeria had always been manipulated by politicians.
He expressed doubt about the preparedness of the INEC to deliver free, fair and credible elections in the three states. His fears are not unconnected with the way INEC flouted its own rules and guidelines during the last general elections in February and March.
While speaking to DAILY POST, he reminded the electoral body that the three off-cycle elections is an opportunity for it to redeem its battered image and restore people’s confidence in it once again.
He called on the security agents to live up to their duties by ensuring that people move freely and safely to exercise their franchise on Election Day.
He also urged the people to be optimistic, in spite of all the identified odds, saying, “We will fight and ensure that something credible comes out of the elections. Let the people be prepared for the transformation that many people are trying to bring about.”
National Publicity Secretary of the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Alex Ogbonnia, lamented that the kind of democracy being practised in Nigeria was the bane of all the electoral problems in Nigeria.
He told DAILY POST that Nigeria has failed to separate the state from the government and that is why it has become so difficult to have free, fair and credible elections in Nigeria.
For the former second Vice President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Monday Onyekachi Ubani, whether INEC would be able to deliver free, fair and credible elections is largely dependent on the people.
He urged the people to insist that the right thing must be done.
“If we discover any defect in any of the processes, we should raise alarm to the public and let INEC know what our fears are, and probably wait for their reactions, whether they will address such issues or not.
“If we don’t raise those issues which we have found out in the system, the politicians will think that everybody is ignorant, and if they want to manipulate, they can go ahead to do that,” he told DAILY POST.