Today is the D-Day for the people of Kogi and Bayelsa states as over two and half million registered voters are expected to decide the fate of the more than 50 political parties and 69 governorship candidates in the two states. According to the statistics released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), while there are 1,646,350 registered voters for Kogi State, there are 923, 182 voters in Bayelsa State. However, 889, 308 Permanent Voter Cards (PVC) were collected in Bayelsa State, making 96.3 percent of the registered voters. The charged atmosphere in the two states has given rise to concerns over the safety of lives and property due to the violence that characterised the electioneering in the two states in the last few weeks.
The police have however moved to curb anything untoward with the deployment of 31, 041 policemen to Bayelsa State and 35, 800 policemen to Kogi state, totalling 66, 841 policemen deployed in the two states. Though there are many political parties jostling for the two governorship seats and one senatorial slot in Kogi state, the contests has been narrowed to a two-horse race between the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The test of might will see 45 political parties competing in Bayelsa State and 24 partaking in the Kogi exercise, making it a total of 69 governorship candidates in the two states.
In Kogi State, the governor, Yahaya Bello, is seeking re-election into the Lugard House on the platform of the APC, and will be running against his PDP opponent, Engr. Musa Wada and 22 others, who will battle for 1,646,350 votes in the state.
The 24 candidates who have canvassed for votes across the states will be expecting the electorate from the three senatorial districts and 21 local government areas in the state to vote for them. Apart from the governorship poll, 432,515 voters will also march out to vote for their representative in the Red Chamber. For the Kogi West Senatorial rerun, the contest is majorly between Senator Dino Melaye of the PDP and Senator Smart Adeyemi of the APC in the seven local government area s of the state: Ijumu, Kabba-Bunu, Kogi, Lokoja, Mopamuro, Yagba East and Yagba West. The popularity of both candidates may also determine where the pendulum will swing in the governorship poll in the area.
This is coming as the Court of Appeal sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, stopped INEC from removing the name of the governorship candidate of the APC in Bayelsa State, David Lyon, from the ballot of today’s election. The court granted an exparte order restraining INEC from disqualifying the governorship candidate of the APC.
The three-member Appeal Court panel led by Justice Lokulo-Sodipi, also restrained the INEC from executing the orders of the Federal High Court, which ordered the removal of the name and logo of the APC and its governorship candidate from the race. Justice Lokulo-Sodipi, in a ruling, held that the panel abides by the decision made by Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal, which compelled INEC to maintain status quo from the September 18, 2019, when the matter was instituted, pending the determination of motion on notice for interlocutory injunction.
The Appeal panel, thereafter, ordered that applicants should serve all the respondents notices and other processes before adjourning till November 21, for mention. The road to Creek Haven will see Lyon slugging it out against Senator Douye Diri of the PDP and 43 other candidates from other political parties.
Vote-buying amidst tension
Already, there is tension and apprehension in Kogi State as people are afraid of coming out to vote for fear of being attack during the election. A resident who spoke on the condition of anonymity in the Igala area of Kogi said the “people may not come out to vote because of fear of being attack by hoodlums” He also noted that negotiation for vote-buying had started already as canvassers have started reaching out to people. The voter told our correspondent that his coordinator told them that money would be shared in the morning.
Masked men attack Makinde, others
In a twist, there seemed to be a security lapse in Kogi State as some armed and masked security men yesterday stormed Suitorial Hotels, along Stadium Road in Lokoja, where the Governor of Oyo State, Engr. Seyi Makinde, Wada and some PDP leaders were meeting. Multiple sources told Saturday Telegraph that the security operatives stormed the hotel based on a tip off that some hoodlums were meeting in the hotel. But on getting there they discovered that Governor Makinde, who is the Chairman of the PDP Campaign Council for Kogi State governorship election was meeting with Wada and other party’s leaders.
Saturday Telegraph gathered from realible sources, including security officers at the Suitorial Hotels that the hooded security operatives arrived the hotel where Makinde, Wada and some members of the PDP Campaign Council were lodged about 12.50 p.m. According to the source, some of the hooded security operatives forced their way into the hotel. But a number of security operatives attached to the governor and some residents of nearby buildings, however, resisted the security operatives, thereby causing a pandemonium.
The source said: “They came fully armed and hooded. Some of them scaled the fence of the hotel and made to enter the hotel proper. But pandemonium ensued, as there was commotion between security operatives attached to the Governor and the invaders.
“However, some residents in the neighbourhood of the hotel soon mobilised and joined the governor’s security to resist the invaders.” But reacting to the event during a briefing with some journalists at the Kogi State Police Command, the state Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Busari, said the security men went to the hotel base on a report that some hoodlums were meeting at the place. He said: “We heard that there were hoodlums at the hotel but on getting there the security men discovered that it was Governor Seyi Makinde and Wada that were at the hotel and they have to leave the place.” He also said that the security agencies were fully prepared for the election and to provide adequate security in the state. Confirming the invasion of the hotel by the masked security officials to Saturday Telegraph during a visit to the hotel, some personnels working at the hotel said the security agencies came to the hotel but were prevented from having access to the governor. “The masked security men numbering about 20, came to the hotel and they wanted to enter but the security staff attached to the governor prevented them from entering. And having been prevented they left the place.” Saturday Telegraph gathered that few minutes after the invasion, Governor Makinde, Wada and other PDP officials drove out of the hotel to an unknown location. “The governor is no longer here. They drove out in convoy and we don’t know where they went to,” a hotel employee told one of our correspondents.
EU urges security agencies to be neutral
European Union has urged the security agencies to be neutral in the discharge of their duty within the framework of the electoral law. Speaking during a press conference in Lokoja, the Head of Delegation, and European Union Delegation to Nigeria and to the Economic Community of West African States, Ambassador Ketil Karlsen, said they were in Kogi and Bayelsa states to support the consolidation of democracy in Nigeria and not there in support of any political party and candidate.
The European Union team which comprises many foreign officials from United Kingdom, Germany, Switzerland and Austrian embassies, also implored the citizens of Kogi and Bayelsa to come out and vote for their preferred candidates, nothing that “the beauty of democracy was for people to come out and vote candidates they believe will help improve their socioeconomic conditions.” The EU while discouraging the electorate from vote-buying, noted that “In any democracy, elections should be about a competition of ideas and serving the people. Therefore, vote buying is illegal and should not be encouraged. We hope that tomorrow’s elections reflect this.”
His words: “The elections in Kogi and Bayelsa are important because these are the first set of elections being conduct post 2019 general elections and hence, we are Keen to see how the process unfolds with hope that all stakeholders have learned lessons from the previous elections and that these lessons have been taken on board in a bid to further strengthen the electoral process particularly in the area of the collation and transmission of results and timely-effective communication with the electorates.
“We hope that all these lessons will further promote electoral integrity that will enhance a credible and peaceful process. “We note with concerns the witnessed tensions and some security incidences that have been reported in the runup to these elections and take this opportunity to appeal to the security agencies as well as the electorates to keep the peace. “We believe that the electorate should be able to exercise their franchise in a secure, conducive and accessible environment devoid of any intimidation and harassment. “We will also like to encourage the security agencies to remain neutral in the discharge of their duty within the framework of the electoral law.”
Situation Room urges parties to restrain their supporters from violence
The Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room has also called on the security services to demonstrate their commitment to non-partisanship support to electoral security. Speaking on behalf of Situation Room, Dudu Manuga and Celestine Odo, the civil society groups implored political parties to restrain their supporters from election violence They also implored the people of Kogi State to come out freely to exercise their civil responsibility during the governorship poll. “Owing to the high stakes in the governorship election and the increasingly tense political environment, the potential for serious local instability that may further exacerbate Nigeria’s security challenges as a whole, is real. Therefore, Situation Room calls on the security services to demonstrate their commitment to non-partisanship support to electoral security, and ensure that it provides adequate security for the elections, in a manner that does not allow or encourage violence to be used as a tool for vote suppression. “We further called on the Police Force to document evidence of violence as well as infractions and their perpetrators in order to speedily bring offenders to book. “Situation Room calls on political parties participating in the governorship election to take part in the elections devoid of perpetrating violence, vote buying or other electoral malpractices. Situation Room further calls on political parties to restrain their supporters from election violence. “Situation Room calls on all eligible voters to come out freely to exercise their civic responsibility on Saturday, November 16. Situation Room expects that INEC and indeed all stakeholders in the electoral process would have taken lessons from the challenges of the 2019 general elections and work towards delivering peaceful and credible governorship election in Kogi State.”
PDP accuses APC of attempt to disrupt its leaders’ meeting
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has accused suspected thugs of the All Progressives Congress (APC) of attempt to disrupt the meeting of its members in Lokoja, Kogi State. The party said in a statement yesterday by the National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, that several hooded thugs, armed with automatic rifles and other dangerous weapons, invaded the venue of the meeting which had in attendance, Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, PDP governorship candidate, Engr. Musa Wada, his running mate, Hon. Samuel Aro, among other party chieftains. “It took the resistance of the security personnel attached to Governor Makinde to save the situation, which would have turned calamitous, as the people of Kogi who were around the venue were already poised for a stiff confrontation,” PDP said in the statement. It warned the APC that its “reliance on thugs and violence cannot thrive, as the people are ready to defend their state in this election.” The party urged the Inspector General of Police Mohammed Adamu, to caution the APC, and to put every measure in place to check the activities of thugs so as to ensure a hitch free, transparent and credible election on Saturday. It also called on the people of Kogi State to remain alert and resolute in their determination to assert their will despite the machinations designed to undermine their spirit at the election. PDP told Nigerians to hold the APC and Governor Yahaya Bello responsible should any harm whatsoever befall any of its members.