- The Kogi, Bayelsa governorship polls offer another chance to get things right
Tomorrow, the electorate in Kogi and Bayelsa states will troop to the polling units to exercise their franchise. They are to elect the governors and deputy governors to run affairs of the states for four years. This is another opportunity for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to prove cynics wrong. Many analysts had dismissed the conduct of the 2019 general elections as worse than the 2015 elections. It is difficult to accept that all the blames could go to other actors.
Bayelsa State has a peculiar terrain, with the creeks, in particular posing a huge challenge. The traditional militants in the state are readily available to be hired by politicians and they understand the area better than the security agents being deployed for the purpose. The thugs, armed to the teeth, go all out to snatch ballot boxes, chase away electoral officials and thwart the will of the people. In some cases, they waylay vehicles transporting sensitive materials to the polling stations in areas where their principals are weak.
The disruption of stakeholders’ meetings in the run-up to this election, and the shooting at the party primaries are indications that all is not well with the political atmosphere in the state. Intra- party wrangling is as bitter as the inter-party conflicts.
In the All Progressives Congress (APC) that is the main opposition party in the state, Senator Heineken Lokobiri has not given up on wresting the ticket from the victorious David Lyon. Lyon also has a challenge in finding a substitute for his running mate who has been disqualified by a competent court of law. Given the unequivocal provision that no candidate is validly nominated unless he has a validly nominated deputy governorship candidate, the verdict has thrown a clog in the party’s wheel.
The situation in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is no different. Mr. Timi Alaibe, a former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), had taken the party’s candidate to court and the matter remained unresolved.
We hope that, given the experience in the state, especially in the February/July presidential and legislative elections, the security agencies have mapped out plan to curb malpractices. The threats being hurled at each other by political chieftains are unacceptable.
And, in Kogi State where 23 political parties are in contention, the build-up to the election has left many maimed. Even at the stakeholders’ parley organised by the election umpire, the candidate of Social Democratic Party SDP, Ms Natasha Akpoti, was brutalised and denied entry by thugs who had no respect for even the Inspector-General of Police in attendance. The party’s secretariat in Lokoja was equally razed by those who saw her as a threat at the poll.
We urge the political actors, INEC leadership, security agencies and observers to be vigilant during the elections. No one’s election is worth the blood of the innocent. The electorate should also realise that selling their voting right is not only barbaric and illegal, but amounts to inflicting injury on themselves as the “winner” mounts the throne owing allegiance to no one. The ballot is a tool for change and social engineering when wisely used. This is what we expect of the people of Bayelsa and Kogi states tomorrow.
For INEC leaders, it’s another opportunity to demonstrate their competence, independence and incorruptibility. Whereas logistics has been the bane of election management in the country, the off-season elections offer another chance to show the monster could be tamed. Professor Mahmood Yakubu has a point to make in this election, just as the Inspector-General of Police who is at the head of the security arrangement.
‘No one’s election is worth the blood of the innocent. The electorate should also realise that selling their voting right is not only barbaric and illegal, but amounts to inflicting injury on themselves… The ballot is a tool for change and social engineering…This is what we expect of the people of Bayelsa and Kogi states tomorrow’