Concerns as stakeholders gather before the Kogi gov election

Yekini Jimoh writes on the concerns raised at different stakeholders’ meetings organized as part of the buildup to the November 11 governorship election in Kogi State…..CONTINUE READING....CONTINUE READING

The people of Kogi State are becoming increasingly eager to go to the poll to elect who succeeds Governor Yahaya Bello in November. While the political parties and their candidates are involved in a medley of activities to put them on better stead ahead of the election, several people are engaging in permutations on the poll, calibre and pedigree of the candidates. The standard-bearers of the major political parties are leading the pack in public ratings on how the election could go, as well as on issues that could swing the votes on the D-Day.

To some observers, the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Alhaji Ododo Ahmed Usman is the man to beat. This, according to them, is because of level of support the candidate seems to be enjoying across board. They usually cite the preponderance of influential politicians in other parties that have continued to defect to the APC, with a promise to work assiduously for the party to retain power on November 11. Notable among other prominent politicians that have also promised to mobilise support for the APC candidate is Chief Abiodun Ojo of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); a former member of the state House of Assembly, Chief Alfred Bello who dumped PDP for APC, and Senator Atai Aidoko.

In the PDP, issues over the outcome of its primary to elect a standard-bearer are beginning to pale into insignificance. Its candidate, Senator Dino Melaye, is stepping up his campaign for the election. Apart from the use of traditional platforms for campaign, the party and its candidate are also deploying the social media to showcase the goodies that await the state if PDP wins the election in November.

But, there are occasional twists and turns in the buildup to the poll beyond defection, realignment of forces and compromise among top notch politicians. The scenario is captured by the occasional claims and counter-claims, as well as accusations and counter-accusations, horse-trading and brinkmanship. For instance, recently, the governorship candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Alhaji Muritala Yakubu Ajaka raised issues concerning what he perceived as the rising level of political intolerance. His outcry followed a clash between SDP supporters and those of the ruling APC. The fracas occurred along Koton-Karfi when the governor was returning from Abuja. In a statement, the spokesperson for Alhaji Ajaka, Mr. Faruk Adejo raised serious concern on the security implications. There was a spontaneous reaction from state Commissioner for Information and Communications, Honourable Kingsley Fanwo, who accused the SDP candidate of engaging in a macabre dance. He accused Ajaka of “whipping up sentiments” so as to put himself in a better stead, ahead of the election.

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The electoral umpire has not let down its guard in the preparation for the poll. It has consistently admonished the main stakeholders to respect the rules of the game. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) office in Lokoja has hosted consultations, interactions and engagements with critical stakeholders on the need to partner to deliver a peaceful exercise. At a stakeholders‘meeting held in the state capital, Kogi State Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Hale Gabriel Longpet, expressed concerns about unpleasant happenings lately. Longpet was worried about the election not holding in some areas of the state due to communal crisis and flooding. According to him, those marked areas include Ibaji and part of Bassa, where floods are expected. He enjoined political parties to play by the rules of the game while noting that the role of INEC is to conduct the election within the ambit of the law. While recounting how the last election was characterised by instability and damage to lives and property, the Kogi REC gave the assurance that the commission was perfecting plans to conduct a free, fair and credible election on November 11.

He added: “Final list of candidates contesting the November 11 governorship election in the state has been published. Campaign in public is expected to commence on June 14. Let us all engage in the campaign of issues and caution supporters to operate with the rules as amended in Electoral Act 2022.” Longpet urged other political actors to shun violence and other forms breach of public peace to guarantee a peaceful election.

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Also, the Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG) zone 8 in charge of Kogi and Kwara Police Command, Babatunde Ishola, charged political actors in the state to have a positive attitudinal change that would guarantee peaceful, free and fair conduct of election. He spoke at a stakeholders’ meeting at the headquarters of the police command in Lokoja on peace and security. Ishola, who said the police force would do everything possible to ensure that the election is free of violence , assured that men and officers of the force would be deployed to every polling unit to avert possible snatching of ballot boxes, as well as provide protection for the voters. He called on the politicians to sensitize their members and supporters, stating that the authorities would act accordingly against whoever might be caught undermining the electoral process. “There should be no violence of any form either before, during and after elections, no destruction of billboard, posters of political parties, no snatching of ballot boxes during elections” he warned. The AIG also charged political parties to base their campaign on issues that would promote their image before the electorate; desist from using vulgar language that could create tension and cause violence during the campaign.

Similarly, the Commissioner of Police, Kogi State Command, CP Akeem Yusuf said the meeting, which was organised by AIG zone 8 office, in collaboration with the state police command, was meant to address the crisis and hitches that often led to violence and brigandage during elections. He charged the ,political parties and their candidates to rise up to the challenge of ensuring unity, peace and mutual respect for one another irrespective of political, ethnic and religious diversities. The Commissioner of Police, who equally charged the stakeholders to use the meeting as a wake-up call on the community leaders , party leaders and religious leaders, urged them to prepare to lead by example. “At the command level and in conjunction with other security agencies, we will adopt a robust and elaborate security arrangement to ensure adequate security for all political parties in the ongoing political rallies and campaigns across the state,” he stated…..CONTINUE READING