OPPOSITION parties, civil society organisations, and Nigerians who are displeased with the conduct of the governorship election in Kogi state by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Saturday, November 11, continue to condemn the exercise and malpractices that allegedly characterise it.
The state is one of the eight states in Nigeria with off-season governorship polls. Others are Anambra, Imo, Bayelsa, Ekiti, Ondo, Edo and Osun
The INEC announced Usman Ododo as the election winner on Sunday, November 12.
The poll was held in 3,508 polling units spread across the 21 local government areas of the state.
Major candidates in the election
According to the candidates’ list published by INEC, 18 people participated in the poll in the state.
Among the leading candidates are Murtala Ajaka of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Usman Ododo of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Dino Melaye of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and Leke Abejide of the African Democratic Congress (ADC).
Usman Ahmed Ododo
Ododo is a former auditor-general for local government in the state.
He enjoys the advantage of being the only candidate from the Kogi central senatorial district and hails from Okene, the same locality as the incumbent Governor Yahaya Bello.
He is the gubernatorial candidate of the PDP in the election.
Melaye is a former senator and House of Representatives member.
He hails from Ayetoro Gbede in Ijumu local government area of the Kogi west senatorial district.
Muritala Yakubu Ajaka
Muritala Ajaka was the former deputy national publicity secretary of the APC.
He resigned the party’s membership, after which he emerged as the gubernatorial candidate of the SDP for the November 11 election.
He is from the Kogi senatorial district – the region with the highest voters and population.
Residents expressed mixed feelings a few days before the election
As INEC, Police, and other stakeholders prepared for the election, residents of the state expressed mixed feelings towards the poll.
Many residents interviewed on the streets of Lokoja a few days before the election reacted differently to the exercise.
A resident, Sulaiman Ibrahim, said he was unconcerned about the election and would not vote.
He said nothing had changed since he had been voting in the state.
“Things are the same; you vote every time, but nothing changes. The state is still in comatose,” he said.
Another resident, Kayode Eshinloye, described the election as “very crucial” to the state’s survival.
“Anyone who refuses to vote now should not complain of bad leadership in the future,” he stated.
Idiyatu Kamoru, a shop owner, raised concerns over security in the state. According to her, her safety comes first before any election.
INEC gave assurance of a fair and credible election
The INEC, through its resident electoral commissioner (REC), Hale Longpet, said it had no candidate in the election.
Longpet said this during a press briefing in Lokoja on Friday, November 10.
While delivering a speech on behalf of the INEC chairman Mahmood Yakubu, Longpet vowed to provide a level playing field for all political parties and candidates in the elections.
Heavy security presence noticed in the state
There was a heavy Police presence in the state before, during, and after the election.
Armoured personnel carriers, sniffer dogs, and members of the Police’s counter-terrorism unit were seen mounting roadblocks and patrols within the state.
Police ban movement on election day, assures residents of safety
Kogi State Police Command banned human and vehicular movement from midnight on Friday, November 10, to 6 p.m. on Saturday, November 11.
Speaking on security for the election, the deputy inspector general (DIG) of Police Ahmed Sani, who was in charge of security for the exercise, said the Police would not spare anyone attempting to test the Force’s will.
According to Sani, the Police deployed enough security men to handle each of the 3,508 polling units and 239 wards in the 21 LGAs in the state.
Scarcity of hotel accommodation in Lokoja
The ICIR, in this report, observed that most hotels in the state’s capital, Lokoja, were fully booked a few hours before the election.
A visit to some of the hotels in the city on Thursday, November 9, showed that there were no vacant rooms to give out.
Facilities visited include Idrianana Hotel on Idrinana Close, Lokongoma Phase II, Lokoja, Suitoria Hotel, Zone 8 Road, beside New Stadium, Twins Palace Hotel, Hon. Yusus Avenue and Lily Grand Hotel, and Lokogoma Phase 2.
Security vehicles were noticed on election day at Itakpe junction, Okene.
The vehicles (black Hilux), three in number, were stopped by some military officers stationed at the junction in the early hours of election day. The vehicles’ arrival caused stirs in the area.
The ICIR observed that despite military personnel manning the highway and instructing the vehicles’ occupants to disembark, they refused to alight or lower their windows.
This incident caused some delay for journalists travelling to Okene LGA to cover the election, as the military blocked the passage of any vehicles because of the attitude of the black Hilux’s occupants.
The ICIR, Arise TV crew, Channels TV, and Silverbird TV were some media houses affected by the incident.
A journalist at the scene who attempted to photograph the vehicles was detained and forced to delete the images.
The journalists were eventually allowed to proceed after a long delay, but the ‘strange’ vehicles were detained.
The ICIR reported a massive voter turnout at the largest voting centre in Adavi LGA on election day.
Hundreds of voters trooped out early at the LGA Primary School as early as 7.30 a.m. to vote.
According to the voters, the centre is the largest voting centre in the town.
There was a minor incident at two polling units (PU) in Okene LGA on election day.
A party member – a man – absconded with money meant for vote-buying at two polling units.
The PUs are PU 25, Ucheba ward, and PU 012, Orietesu ward.
Upon hearing of the incident, people were seen chasing one another in the area.
A resident told our reporter that the man named Shaibu absconded with the money meant for vote buying.
It was not immediately clear which political party the man represented.
Police officers stationed at the polling unit were seen not taking any action.
Similarly, soldiers stationed a few metres away did not bat an eyelid.
Operatives of the EFCC also arrested 14 suspected vote buyers across the three states where off-cycle governorship elections were held that day, including Kogi state.
A statement by the commission hours after the polls stated that the buyers were apprehended in different parts of Kogi, Imo and Bayelsa states.
The EFCC said it intercepted N11 million (N11,040,000) from suspected vote buyers in the three states.
The Commission didn’t state the exact amount recovered in Kogi state.
Opposition parties raise alarm
The PDP candidate in the Kogi governorship election, Melaye, raised the alarm over allegations of forged results sheets in the Ogori Mangogo area of the state.
In a brief voice statement he released via his X handle, as the voting was ongoing, Melaye said residents of the Ogori Mangogo refused to vote due to the incident.
He described the action as a threat to the election’s credibility and accused INEC of refusing to work within the confine of its Act.
The ICIR reported that YIAGA Africa condemned the alleged malpractice and expressed deep concern over the integrity of the electoral process and the potential implications of any malpractice on democracy in the state.
Similarly, the SDP governorship candidate, Ajaka,complained that the original result sheets for the election were missing in Okenne, Okehi and Adavi local government areas and urged INEC to question the people involved.
He said this after casting his vote in his local government, Igalamela.
Yahaya Bello boast of victory
The ICIR reported that Kogi State Governor Yahaya Bello boasted after casting his vote in his hometown of Okenne that Ododo would win the election.
The governor said he was confident of victory because of his work in the state.
INEC reacts to reports of results manipulation
The INEC suspended the governorship election in some local government areas (LGAs) of the state over electoral malpractices.
Affected LGAs include Adavi, Ajaokuta, Ogori/Magongo, Okehi, and Okene.
The commission, via its X handle, on Saturday night, November 11, said it received reports from its officials in the state on incidents of electoral malpractices, particularly the incident of result sheets completed before voting.
The electoral body described the development as “entirely unacceptable,” adding that any result not emanating from the commission’s process in the polling units would not be accepted.
It further assured the electorate in the state that their votes would be protected and their wishes would be respected.
Later in the day, the commission announced fresh elections in wards where it had earlier cancelled elections.
In a statement signed by the INEC National Commissioner & Member Information and Voter Education Committee, Mohammed Haruna, Saturday night and shared on the commission’s X handle, the commission said that the decision to conduct a fresh election depended on the returning officer’s decision to apply the margin of lead principle.
INEC declared Ododo winner
The INEC, through its returning officer in the state, Johnson Urama, the deputy vice-chancellor (academics) of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, declared Ododo the election winner on Sunday, November 12.
Ododo polled 446,237 votes, Ajaka won 259,052, and Melaye garnered 46,362 votes.
Controversy trails Ododo’s emergence as election winner
While speaking during an interview with Channels Television on Monday, November 13, he accused INEC of “allocating” votes to the APC.
Melaye claimed there was no election in the state.
The former senator described the exercise as “shameful” and said the nation’s democracy had taken a “setback.”
He declared that it was not the first time he had lost an election and that he could not accept the results of an election that was “far from credible.”
Also, speaking on the election outcome, Ajaka said he would not challenge the election result in court.
He claimed that INEC had cheated the state’s voters by ‘manipulating’ the election results to favour the APC candidate.
He said this while appearing on Sunday night on Channels Television’s “The 2023 Verdict” programme.
The SDP candidate added that going to court to contest the poll’s outcome would be a waste of time, claiming INEC would come as a witness to defend the results.
Another candidate in the election, Olayinka Braimoh of Action Alliance, said he was arrested and detained during the election.
Braimoh alleged that he was arrested and detained on Saturday, disenfranchising him from voting.
“I was disenfranchised, illegally locked up in Kabba Area Police Command for over eight hours, and my security details denied bail,” he said in a video.
The tenure of Governor Bello ends on January 26, 2024, when Ododo is expected to take the oath of office.