By Ojotule Adogo
Many Nigerians are exchanging banters while congratulating President Muhammadu Buhari for winning the 2019 presidential election. But at the same moment, many families in Kogi East, especially Igala-speaking communities, are mourning as a result of the killings and violence perpetuated by desperate All Progressives Congress (APC) agents during the elections last week. This is totally unacceptable. Kogi East has never witnessed this degree of brigandage in its contemporary political history, and it has become important for President Buhari to intervene and ensure that justice is done.
The violence in Kogi State was well predicted, but security agencies looked the other way while desperate elements turned Kogi East into a war zone. Orchestrated by APC militia, before the elections, they had begun to terrorize the zone. The following are ten such instances widely reported in newspapers:
1. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) meeting of three districts in Dekina LGA was disrupted by APC thugs bearing AK-47 and other dangerous weapons on November 4, 2018.
2. At Anyigba, on November 9, 2018 PDP Zonal office was attacked, members wounded and houses destroyed.
3. On December 6, 2018 a rally of the PDP at Abocho Ward in Dekina LGA was disrupted by APC thugs. Many sustained gunshot injuries.
4. The PDP campaign team was attacked at Iyale in Dekina LGA on December 29, 2018, where vehicles were burnt.
5. At Ologba in Dekina LGA the PDP campaign team was attacked leading to the destruction of a lot of campaign equipment. The thugs invaded the residence of the Ward Chairman, Isiaka Adama, and destroyed for vehicles.
6. The attacks continued at Ogane-Enugu in Dekina where the convoy of Hon Ben Ikani, a member of the House of Representatives was attacked by thugs who carried AK-47 and other weapons.
7. On January 10, 2019, the campaign materials of Dr Victor Alewo Adoji , the ADC senatorial candidate, were destroyed in Ankpa Local Government Area by unknown gunmen.
8. Dr Victor Alewo Adoji’s supporters were attacked on January 19, 2019 in Dekina by APC thugs. Many of them were injured as the vehicles in which they were conveyed were destroyed. The home of one of Adoji’s supporters was invaded and properties destroyed.
9. The campaign team of Benjamin Ikani was again attacked on Saturday, February 2, 2019 at Itama area of Dekina by APC thugs. Two persons were killed and many persons sustained various degrees of injuries.
10. In many wards, the thugs continued to harass and intimidate the people of Kogi East, threatening to deal with politicians and supporters of other political parties, except APC.
In spite of the reports, the merchants of violence were not arrested, brought to book or even prevented from carrying out more attacks. The Nigeria Police and other security agencies in the state looked away as the acts of violence subtracted from the confidence of the people in the elections before it was conducted.
However, what the people feared most came upon them. During the elections, thugs moved freely from one polling unit to another terrorizing the people, seizing ballot boxes, destroying them and engaging in activities that violated the letters and spirit of the Electoral Act. The police confirmed the killing of three persons during the elections but while the mayhem was being perpetrated, the police failed to intervene to halt or arrest them.
Three deaths were recorded in Ayingba, Dekina Local Government Area, and Odolu, Igalamela Local Government Area, all in Kogi East Senatorial district. As a result of the violence that ruined the elections in the region, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared the National Assembly elections in the area inconclusive. But it admitted the result for the presidential contest. It beats one’s imagination why INEC would accept the results for the presidential election from Kogi East when the violence that led to the inclusive senatorial and House of Representatives elections occurred at the same time when the presidential poll was being conducted. In essence, the results of the presidential and National Assembly elections conducted in Kogi East should not have been admitted; it was a mere sham. They lack the kind of integrity that should make anyone who won in such an election proud.
President Muhammadu Buhari should ensure a probe into the terror in Kogi during the elections. Governor Yahaya Bello cannot claim innocence in the deadly incidents that took place. The least that should be done is for the president to call the agents of APC to order, as their desperate attempts to win elections for Buhari may be responsible for the inhuman treatment meted out to the people of Kogi East. The fear here is that several other elections are in the offing. For instance, there is the need to conclude the National Assembly elections. On March 9, there will be elections into Kogi State House of Assembly. If nothing is done, the militia that have been terrorising the people will consider their devilish activities as legitimate political strategy for winning elections. They would do worse than what they did on Saturday, February 23, by killing more persons, destroying property in order to ensure that only those the ‘powers-that-be’ in Kogi State support win elections into the National Assembly and the House of Assembly.
Election is about the will of the people. The blood of the people of Kogi East Senatorial district should not be used as rites of passage for those who want to realise their political ambition. The people have suffered from the lack of governance in the state over the past three years. Killing them and stealing their right to vote for candidates of their choice in elections is like adding salt to injury. This is totally unacceptable.
Ojotule wrote this piece from Lokoja, Kogi State