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GUBERNATORIAL ELECTIONS IN KOGI & BAYLSA STATES: ANOTHER CHALLANGE TO NIGERIA DEMOCRACY

GUBERNATORIAL ELECTIONS IN KOGI & BAYLSA STATES: ANOTHER CHALLANGE TO NIGERIA DEMOCRACY

By ifeanyi Ottah
Ahead of the governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa States on November 21 and December 5, 2015 respectively, there is no doubt that the Outcome of the elections will signpost the All Progressives Congress (APC) led Federal government preparedness to handle challenges of elections in Nigeria.

Since the transition to civil rule in 1999, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had held sway for 16 years and within these years the party had conducted four general elections in the country and the challenges were enormous. The electoral system has remained corrupt since 1999. The degree of corruption has increased steadily from 1999 to 2015. So far, the flawed 1999 elections may be the best the country had had since this fourth republic, may be, because it was conducted by the military who are not allowed to be partisan politicians. The 2003 charade elections were clearly weighed heavily in favour of the incumbent President Olusegun Obasanjo . The results were challenged in court. The 2007 elections turned out the most comical in several areas. The numbers of reported votes were clearly in excess of the number of registered voters. The principal beneficiary of the 2007 elections, late President Umar Musa Yar’adua, was so overwhelmed with the INEC charade that, in his personal dignity and integrity, admitted that his election was flawed and called for a government of national unity. .

The 2011 elections were also carefully manipulated. The manipulations led to over 200 pre-election cases; a national record. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) clearly disregarded the Nigerian Constitution and Electoral Act in a very arrogant display of impunity. The 2015 elections however were adjudged by both local and International observers to be better than the previous elections.

However, the new chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Professor Mahmoud Yakubu said the commission is “fully prepared” for the forthcoming governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states and has “no excuse for failure”.

The Commission also warned politicians, especially the candidates to be civil in their utterances. The INEC chairman, represented by the Administrative Secretary of The Electoral Institute, John Irem, gave the warning in Abuja during the public presentation of a book entitled: “2015 Kogi and Bayelsa states governorship elections observation and research guide”, published by Election Monitor.

At the event, the coordinator of EM, Mr. Abiodun Ajilola, said “the world is watching to see if electoral reforms will continue.”

He also suggested that President Muhammadu Buhari should ensure that the Federal Government does not interfere in the conduct of elections in both Kogi and Bayelsa states, while at least three security agencies should be deployed to each polling booth.

The INEC chairman said, “The Commission is fully prepared for the election in Kogi and Bayelsa states. As I speak, the training of our personnel for Kogi has been done; by next week, the training for that of Bayelsa State begins. The distribution of the Permanent Voters Cards is also ongoing while the training exercise is being carried out. We don’t want to disenfranchise anybody and the logistics are being put in place.

“A new chairman has been appointed and once the person resumes, the driving process will start. The commission is making sure that it takes the electoral instruments to Nigerians in Kogi and Bayelsa states. The commission is making sure that there is no excuse for failure in the governorship election of both states.

“We appeal to the politicians themselves, especially the candidates and leaders of political parties to exercise maturity and also be temperate in their utterances because these unguarded utterances lay the foundation for people to go violent during election.”

auduAccording to him, INEC was committed to making sure that there will be no excuse for violence in the elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states “because it is when the process is perverse that there will be violence.”

Yakubu, however, said that the experience of the 2015 general elections has shown that INEC is an impartial umpire in the electoral process.

Ajilola suggested that INEC should strive to ensure that the coming elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states become better than the last general elections.

He said, “The world is watching to see if electoral reforms will continue and this is a perfect opportunity for the government of the day to show that it is committed to free, fair and credible elections, irrespective of electoral outcomes.”

The dates are fast approaching. The governorship candidates have been sifted. Stakeholders, including politicians, candidates, security personnel and the electoral body have been meeting in order to ensure smooth and peaceful governorship elections. So, there are desperate moves by contenders to pick the two plum governorship seats in Kogi and Bayelsa states. The number of candidates in the race has provided a platform for intense political campaigns.

Last Monday, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced that 42 candidates would contest the two governorship seats in Kogi and Bayelsa states on November 21 and December 5, 2015 respectively.

A final list signed by the Acting Secretary to the INEC, U. F. Usman, showed that 22 candidates are to contest for the governorship seat in Kogi State alongside their deputies, while the governorship seat in Bayelsa State will be contested by 20 candidates with their deputies.

A breakdown of the contestants for Kogi governorship election, their deputies and parties is as follows: Governor, Isah Yakubu Kamaldeen, Deputy Aina Sanmi Kenedy, Action Alliance (AA); Governor, Dickson F. Fred, Deputy, Davidson Olu, Accord; Governor, Ukenya Musa, Deputy, Daodu Kingsley Ojeifo, Advanced Congress Of Democrats (ACD); Governor, Michael Abdullahi, Deputy Rashidat Wokili,Alliance for Democracy (AD); Governor, Usman Zainab, Deputy, Adewale Akilo, African Democratic Congress (ADC); Governor, Odufu Cosmas Friday, Deputy, Yakubu Abdullahi, African Peoples Alliance (APA); Governor, Prince Abubakar Audu, Deputy, Hon. James Abiodun Faleke,  All Progressives Congress (APC); Governor Akwu Umar Goodman, Deputy, Catherine Ohunene Maliki, All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA); Governor, Yinka Cherry Oloruntoba, Deputy, Hajiya Zainab Audu, Citizens Popular Party (CPP); Governor, Philips Ezekiel Koleola, Deputy, Fashe Funmi Onyioza, Democratic Peoples Congress (DPC); Governor, Abubakar Ibrahim, Deputy Mohammed Abubakar Alfa, Democratic Peoples Party (DPP).

The list also includes Governor, Ibrahim Adejoh, Deputy, Abubakar Mayaki, Independent Democrats (ID); Governor, Raji Ogirima, Deputy, Hajiya Hawa Sulieman, Kowa Party (KP); Governor Philips Omeiza Ozovehe Salawu, Deputy, Yusuf Mamman Dantalle,  Labour Party (LP); Governor, Mohammed Ibrahim Dangana, Deputy, Omiachi Oyibo Joseph, National Conscience Party (NCP); Governor Mallam Abdul Hussein, Deputy, Alori Joseph Sunday, New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP); Governor, Capt. Idris Ichalla Wada, Deputy, Abayomi Awoniyi, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); Governor, Emmanuel Enesi Ozigi, Deputy, Ibrahim Bako Tajudeen, Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA); Governor, Dr. Ojuh Godwin Hussein, Deputy Ibrahim Lawal Mohammed Dutse, Peoples Party of Nigeria (PPN); Governor, Enemah Paul, Deputy, Sheidu Mohammed Obansa, Social Democratic Party (SDP); Governor, Saád Mukailu Yaro, Deputy, Ahmed Sule Obyetor, United Democratic Party (UDP).

The approved list of candidates for the Bayelsa governorship election includes Governor, Chief  Ken Gbahligha Gbalikuma, Deputy, Chief Sara Samuel, Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN); Governor, Chief Osain Dumome, Deputy, Apolous Diseye Stanley, African Democratic Congress (ADC); Governor, Abbey E.G Daniel, Deputy, Weleke Enebiwaikumor Saturday A., African Peoples Alliance (APA); Governor, Timipre Marlin Sylva, Deputy, Wilberforce Titus Igiri, All Progressives Congress (APC); Governor, Hon. Deacon Christopher Fullpower Enai, Deputy, Prince Abeki, All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA); Governor, Eneyi Gideon Roloand Zidougha, Deputy, Talbort Johnie Maclean, Citizens Popular Party (CPP); Governor, Henry Pereokosifa Apeli, Deputy, Seiyefa Fetepigi Eches, Democratic Peoples Congress (DPC); Governor, Pius Abudou Waritimi, Deputy, Jeremiah Alabaraba, Democratic Peoples Party (DPP); Governor, Major Newline Dengeyifa Yaudugagha, Deputy, Macaustine Maclean Dangosu, Independent Democrats (ID); Governor, Isaac Suoyo Nathan, Deputy, Maxson A. Golden, Kowa Party (KP); Governor, Ogoriba Timiniderimo Kaiser, Deputy, Ogidi Sydney Fredrick, Labour Party (LP)

The list further includes Governor, Ekubo Prince Tari, Deputy, Isaac Ekpartaziba Eze, Mega Progressive Peoples Party (MPPP); Governor, Namatebe Inko, Deputy, Laye Inko, New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP); Governor, Ere Hendrix Obragono, Deputy, Akainza Amaebimo Mayo, People For Democratic Change (PDC); Governor, Moses Ebipadou Siliko Siasia, Deputy, Irene T. Digitemie Opuene, Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM); Governor, Dickson Henry Seriake, Deputy, retired Rear Admiral Gboribiogha John Jonah, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); Governor, Alexander Peretu, Deputy, Abraham Didekere, Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA); Governor, Enu Otonye, Deputy, Lucy Akpoebi Brigidi, Peoples Party of Nigeria (PPN); Governor, Joy Prince Oniekpe, Deputy, Mathew Basoene, Social Democratic Party (SDP); Governor Willams Woyinkuro Berezi, Deputy, Siebokuko Tonye James, United Progressive Party (UPP).

In the meantime, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is to deploy a total of 21,947 personnel for the conduct of the Kogi and Bayelsa governorship elections scheduled for Saturday, November 21 and Saturday, December5,2015.

For the Kogi governorship election, a total of 12,120 officers will be deployed, while for the Bayelsa governorship elections, the commission will deploy 9,827 officers for the conduct the elections.

The personnel include Returning Officer, LGA Collation Officers, Registration Area Collation Officers, Supervisory Presiding Officers, Presiding Officers (NYSC), Assistant Presiding Officers (APO) (I,II, and III), Assistant Presiding Officers (VP), Reserve APOs (5%) of APOs (NYSC), LGA Supervisors  plus Head Quarters (HQ) Reserve, Registration Area Cluster Supervisors plus HQ Reserve, and Constituency Supervisor.

Meanwhile, INEC will commence distribution of Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) in Kogi State today (Friday) and in Bayelsa on Friday November, 13 2015.

According to INEC Daily Bulletin, the distribution is to ensure eligible Nigerians who registered in the recently conducted Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise participate in the November 21 Kogi and December 5 Bayelsa 2015 governorship elections.

The exercise in Kogi is scheduled for Friday, November 6 to Wednesday, November 11, 2015.The PVC distribution exercise for Bayelsa is scheduled for Friday, November 13 to 19, 2015.

The distribution of PVCs in both states will commence at 8am daily and end at 4pm at the ward level.

In the same vein INEC, in conjunction with the UNDP-DGD II Project, will be organizing a peace summit in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State in order to ensure political parties, candidates and their supporters play by the rules.

Apart from the political parties and candidates, the event scheduled for Tuesday, November, 10, 2015, will see major stakeholders, including the Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC), traditional rulers, community leaders, religious leaders, leading civil society organizations (CSOs), women and youth groups, People Living with Disabilities (PLWD), security agencies, State Inter-Agency Committee on Voter Education and Publicity (SICVEP) members and the media in attendance.

Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has raised alarm over APCs plan to rig the Kogi and Bayelsa elections.

The party through its National Publicity Secretary Chief Olisa Metu also accused the APC of attempting to use the outcome of the 2015 general elections as a premise to claim victory in the alleged manipulated Borno central senatorial bye election.

“The scandalous resort by the APC to use security forces to frighten and intimidate voters and electoral officers to sway votes in its favour, in addition to other ploys made to set the stage for violence in the process, clearly collaborate the fact that it has already lost its support base in the country and particularly in the north.

“We are aware that the APC is already stretching its desperation to Kogi as well as Bayelsa state where, in the attempt to create tension, unleashed thugs on the campaign train of Governor Seriake Dickson on Tuesday, an action that is a clear test-run of their machinery of violence ahead of the Bayelsa December 5 election.

“Intelligence report available to us shows that this brazen attack on Governor Dickson was not spontaneous but part of a well-hatched plot to create an atmosphere of insecurity in the state, ostensibly to pave way for their violence-driven rigging strategy, including the deployment of APC controlled security forces to frighten and intimidate voters as was the case in the Borno bye-election.

“The PDP wishes to state in clear terms that it would resist any attempt by the APC to derail the peaceful conduct of the November 21 and December 5 governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states respectively.  It is on this note that we call on President Muhammadu Buhari, as the leader of the nation and a huge beneficiary of the credible election organized by the PDP, to take immediate steps to rein-in his members, as their actions in Bayelsa state are capable of triggering a resurgence of militancy in the Niger Delta region.

“Let the APC be amply reminded that Bayelsa and Kogi states are clear strongholds of the PDP and no amount of intimidation, threats and use of force will bend the will of the people or detract from their support for Governors Seriake Dickson and Idris Wada respectively. Moreover, the people of these states are not in any way ready or willing to accept any results that do not, in full measure, reflect their wishes and aspirations at the polls,” the party said..

Consequently, INEC has confirmed the successful conclusion of the update of the voters Register and distribution of the Permanent Voters Cards (PVC) to the electorates, for the November and December elections respectively.

National Commissioner, Ambassador Lawrence Nwuruku, who gave the assurance at the Commission’s headquarter in Abuja, also confirmed that there are sufficient Smart Card Readers for the elections, warning the candidates to concentrate more on educating their supporters instead of planning to engage in electoral malpractice.

With the deadline for submission of list of candidates, CF002, and personal details, CF001, for the positions of Governor and Deputy Governor scheduled for November 14 and October 7 for Kogi and Bayelsa States respectively, the Commissioner further reassured of their readiness to surmount the little challenge of procurement of the pending non-sensitive electoral materials this week.

It could be recalled that the Commission recently disclosed that it has issued letters of accreditation to 50 organizations that will monitor the elections in both States, explaining that it comprises 43 local, 7 foreign observers.

In a letter issued recently, the commission noted that among the foreign observers are the British High Commission, the United State Embassy, Abuja, the European Union, the African Union and the International Republican Institute as well as National Democratic Institute and the International Foundation for Electoral System.

According to the commission, “Every measure needed to organize a fruitful and good election has been put in place and I want to assure Nigerians that on the part of INEC, we are very much set for the election. As you know very well, we have ensured that the voters’ registers in the two states have been updated. The PVC and Smart Card Readers for the elections were all ready for use however, there are certain procurement we would want to take delivery this week but they are none sensitive electoral materials.

“We have also perfected arrangements with the security agents for the elections. I would however want to add that you can never claim perfection when it comes to election. Election is like a moving vehicle that frees the compacted passengers. As we approach the dates, we will still adjust and re-strategize for the D-day.

“We have certainly made provisions for incidence forms should the Smart Card Reader fails to function. The Card Reader authenticates and authorizes the voters but where it fails, the Incidence Forms will be used.

Let me use this opportunity to enlighten Nigerians expressing anxiety over the composition of the national Commission. I want to say that there is nothing illegal in conducting election without replacing the retired ones. It is not illegal even if it is only person remaining.

“He can still conduct any election. The rules say one third of those members available can conduct election. As it is now, one third of those available are one member because those that are available are two. That is way the rule has been interpreted. If the truth must be told, some of the politicians try to chase shadow. With what we have put in place, it is increasingly very difficult to rig the elections. With the voters register, Smart Card reader, PVC among others election security measures in place, I can tell you that it is now difficult to rig the elections.

“All I can advise the candidates and parties is to educate their voters very well so that they can vote participate and vote wisely. The candidates should ensure that the voters and supporters get enough orientation on how to vote.

“It gives us concern that most of the ballot papers are voided because they did not vote correctly. Any candidate who takes the pain to educate his or her supporters to vote wisely will likely emerge winner. Educating the voters is far much better than giving people money to rig the election for them.”

He further said, “In all sincerity, my major fears have to do with the concern of security. From the security reports, we all know that Kogi is very volatile just as we know of Bayelsa.

I want to however assure that we will perfect out security arrangements to ensure that nothing untoward happened before, during and after the elections. With the collaborations we have with the security agencies, we are going to make sure that there will be no security breach for the elections.

Perhaps, I would use this opportunity to appeal to anybody or group planning to ferment trouble to have a rethink because they would have themselves to blame. We are going to make the polling booths very volatile for them”.

In a related development, the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mr. Solomon Arase, has assured the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of the preparedness of the Police to provide adequate security during the Kogi and Bayelsa governorship elections.

This is contained in a statement issued by the Force Public Relations Officer, Acting ACP Olabisi Kolawole in Abuja on Wednesday.

The statement said Arase gave the assurance during a courtesy visit on the Acting Chairperson of INEC, Mrs Amina Zakari in Abuja.

It said the visit was aimed at cementing the existing relationship between the police and the commission in ensuring the actualization of its mandate.

The statement further said that the IGP had directed Police Commissioners nationwide to ensure adequate security at INEC offices and election tribunal sittings.

In her remark, Zakari reiterated the commission’s readiness to work with the police in ensuring successes at the upcoming elections in Kogi and Bayelsa.

In another development, the IGP has given State Commissioners of Police a one-week ultimatum to report on their compliance to withdrawal of Policemen attached to unauthorized persons.

It also directed them to give a report on the compliance to the reduction of Police personnel to political office holders within same period.

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