Residents of Bayelsa, Kogi, and Imo are overcome with a sense of fear and anxiety due to the upcoming Guber polls.

Busy Bee
Busy Bee November 10, 2023
Updated 2023/11/10 at 3:11 PM

As the gubernatorial elections loom in Imo, Bayelsa, and Kogi states on Saturday, November 11, the atmosphere is tense, particularly in Imo and Kogi, where the situation appears grim.

The specter of violence casts a shadow of fear, especially in these two states, reminiscent of the scenario during the 2023 general elections. Though residents are eager to participate in the polls, the fear of risking their lives lingers.

There’s a prevailing skepticism and concern among the populace regarding the Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) ability to ensure a fair and credible election, given the incidents during the previous general elections. The defacement of opposition candidates’ posters in Imo and Kogi, attacks on party supporters, and issues with the BVAS machines have further exacerbated the situation.

During the All Progressives Congress (APC) flag handover ceremony to the party’s candidates at the Banquet Hall of the Aso Rock Villa, President Bola Tinubu emphasized the need for transparent, free, and fair elections in these three states.

“I ask for nothing but free and fair elections. I believe in our capabilities,” President Tinubu urged stakeholders, including the candidates—Hope Uzodinma (Imo), Usman Ododo (Kogi), and Timipre Sylva (Bayelsa)—as well as the party’s national chairman, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, and members of the National Working Committee (NWC).

Expressing optimism about the party’s success in the elections, President Tinubu attributed this confidence to hard work, the candidates’ track records, and the collective efforts of the party officials and APC NWC members.

“We appreciate the diligent efforts of Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State to ensure a smooth transition to our candidate, Usman Ododo. Our gratitude to Hope Uzodinma, the beacon of hope for our party and chairman of the APC Progressives Governors Forum. Timipre Sylva, congratulations on your past achievements as a former governor and minister. We are united in this pursuit for democracy, especially in this election period.

“With Hope Uzodinma as our candidate, we anticipate triumph. I extend my gratitude to the active national leadership of our party, the NWC, and our diligent chairman, acknowledging his commendable work,” President Tinubu stated confidently.

However, despite the president’s insistence on free, fair, and credible elections in the three states, a prominent collective of Kogi professionals, Club 582, has urged President Tinubu to conduct an investigation into the recent spate of killings in the state.

In a statement released by Samuel Onekutuon, the organization’s president, on Wednesday, it was highlighted that despite the presence of security forces, violent incidents were escalating within the state.

The Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Kayode Egbetokun, had recently ordered the deployment of security personnel to Imo, Kogi, and Bayelsa in preparation for the upcoming governorship elections on November 11. Reports indicated that approximately 40,000 police officers were sent to Kogi State.

However, despite these measures, Onekutu expressed concern over the continued loss of lives, citing an incident on Tuesday in Anyigba town where residents were killed due to clashes between political parties.

The statement from Club 582 acknowledged the government’s commitment to maintaining peace and security during the elections but expressed apprehension regarding ongoing violence, particularly in Kogi State. The organization emphasized the need for genuine assurance from the government, especially under President Tinubu’s observation, to safeguard the lives and safety of the people during elections and beyond.

In Imo State, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is demanding the redeployment of the Imo State Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Prof. Sylvia Agu, asserting that the Imo people would not accept any electoral outcome overseen by Agu.

This growing tension in Kogi and Imo has sparked fears of heightened violence. Concerned parties are urging security forces to proactively protect voters and residents by enhancing intelligence gathering and swift response. In Imo, there are reports of the absence of opposition candidates’ posters in Owerri, the state capital, leading to concerns about a lack of political diversity and the suppression of opposition voices.

Imo residents, such as Christian Ekezie, expressed worry over the dominance of the ruling party and instances of violence against dissenters, highlighting incidents like the assault on the president of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Joe Ajaero, which further fuels concerns about a lack of political freedom and safety for opposition figures.

However, in Kogi, the situation is no different. The Social Democratic Party (SDP) candidate claims he has been attacked nearly 30 times, and no arrests have been made in connection with these assaults.

The memories of the 2019 election in Kogi are still vivid in many minds. The unprecedented level of violence during that election has raised concerns that a similar or even worse outbreak of violence could occur in the upcoming Saturday elections in the state if no action is taken.

In Bayelsa, the atmosphere is not as tense and precarious as in Imo and Kogi, except for a recent threat attributed to Joshua Maciver, the deputy governorship candidate of the APC. Maciver allegedly urged APC supporters to drive misbehaving individuals into the sea to meet their demise on Election Day.

“Let us be prepared on the 11th, don’t take anyone lightly. If anyone misbehaves in Twon-Brass, chase them into the sea, let them die. Do you hear me? Chase them and let them perish. After all, they won’t be the first to meet such a fate. So, let’s be prepared and show them that this time, when we win, it’s for good,” he was reported to have said.

Furthermore, the ruling PDP in the state accuses opposition politicians of amassing weapons and mobilizing thugs to disrupt the peaceful, free, and fair conduct of the elections.

Seigha Manager, the president of the Niger Delta Nationalities Forum, expressed doubt about INEC’s readiness to deliver free, fair, and credible elections in the three states. His concerns stem from INEC’s disregard for its own rules and guidelines during the last general elections in February and March.

He reminded INEC that the three off-cycle elections present an opportunity to restore the people’s confidence and redeem its tarnished reputation.

Manager called on security agencies to ensure that people can freely and safely exercise their right to vote on Election Day.

He also encouraged the people to maintain optimism despite the challenges, saying, “We will strive to ensure a credible outcome. Let the people prepare for the positive change many are trying to bring about.”

Chief Alex Ogbonnia, the National Publicity Secretary of the apex Igbo socio-cultural organization, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, lamented that the type of democracy practiced in Nigeria is at the root of electoral problems.

He emphasized that Nigeria has failed to separate the state from the government, making it difficult to achieve free, fair, and credible elections.

Monday Onyekachi Ubani, a former second Vice President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), believes that INEC’s ability to deliver free, fair, and credible elections largely depends on the people.

He urged the people to demand that the right procedures be followed and to raise public awareness about any defects in the electoral process.

“If we identify any flaws in the process, we should raise the alarm publicly and make INEC aware of our concerns. We should wait for their response to see if they will address these issues,” he told DAILY POST.

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