Politics

One week to Poll: Ethnic politics, violence take centre stage in Kogi

 

Ethnicity has always played a major role in the outcome of elections
in Kogi State. Of the three major ethnic groups in the state, the
Ebiras and the Igalas are more likely to play the ethnic card. Aside
the 1991 election that produced the late Prince Abubakar Audu as the
first executive governor of the then young state, subsequent elections
have been coloured by ethnic considerations.
In 1991, the contest between Audu from Kogi East and the late
Architect Stephen Olorunfemi from Kogi West was largely based on
ethnic interests. Audu had contested on the platform of the defunct
National Republican Convention (NRC), while Olorunfemi ran on the
platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP).
While people from the Eastern flank voted massively for Audu,
Olorunfemi controlled votes from the West, leaving the Kogi Central as
the battleground.
This scenario was repeated in 2007, when the central voted
overwhelmingly for their own, in the person of Senator Salami Ohiare
of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), against Alhaji Ibrahim Idris
of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from the East, who received
massive votes from his senatorial district, controlled majorly by the
Igalas. Then, Kogi West became the free zone.
Those elections also witnessed high-scale violence, leading to loss of
lives and destruction of property across the state. And now, as the
state votes this Saturday in the governorship election, trends of
ethnicity and violence have reared their ugly heads, leading to
apprehension. If not properly managed, the coming election could get
out of control.
The stage is already set. Yahaya Bello of the All Progressives
Congress (APC), who is the incumbent governor and one of the major
contenders, is from Kogi central, while Engr. Musa Wada of the Peoples
Democratic Party (PDP) is from Kogi East. This trend has thrown up
another challenge.
In preparation, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)
has presented register of voters to the 23 participating political
parties. Alhaji Mohammed Haruna, the INEC National Commissioner in
charge of Kogi, Kwara and Nasarawa States, presented the register to
the parties at a brief ceremony in Lokoja.
The record showed that 1, 646,350 voters registered in the state as of
Aug. 31, 2019. However, only 1, 485, 828, voters collected their
Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs), while 160,522 PVCs were still
uncollected.
The breakdown showed that Kogi East Senatorial district has the
highest number of voters with 804, 715. Kogi West is second with 432,
515 voters, while Kogi Central is third with 409,120 voters.
Meanwhile, PDP has cautioned APC to desist from playing the ethnic
card and get ready to face the electoral consequences of poor
governance it foisted on the state since 2016. The party also warned
against recourse to violence by Bello, APC, and its supporters.
The PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, at a campaign
inauguration in Lokoja, the state capital, told Bello to prepare for
defeat as he has performed poorly, despite the over N700bn he
collected from the federation account, internally generated revenue,
bailout funds, ecological funds and infrastructural development funds,
among others.
But reacting, the Chairman of publicity, APC campaign organisation,
Kingsley Fanwo, said there was no need to join issues with
Ologbondiyan.
He said Bello has united the state more than any of his predecessors.
He said: “Our votes will spread across the state because the
Ebira-Igala-Okun agenda has come to say. The Igalas, Ebiras, and Okuns
are one and we shall never be set against one another again. So,
between Bello and Wada, who is playing ethnic politics?”
Also rallying support for Bello, the Ebira People’s Association (EPA),
the umbrella body of Ebira Nation, has appealed to the conscience and
reasoning of Ebiras’ on the political divide to support Yahaya Bello’s
second term bid and by extension, that of Kogi Central Senatorial
district.
This was part of the resolution at a general Congress of stakeholders
of the senatorial district held on September 14 in Okene.
Only recently, the Igala Cultural Development Association (ICDA) was
also said to have thrown its weight behind Musa Wada from the Eastern
senatorial district. This, observers said, could be exploited to cause
trouble.
Fanwo, however, told The Guardian recently that it is only those who
are strangers to Kogi State’s affairs in the last 45 months that could
concoct such laughable falsehood.
Listing some of Bello’s attempts at uniting all the various segments
of the state, Fanwo said: “The biggest achievement of the present
administration has been the success at uniting the ethnic
nationalities and resetting the people’s mind to believe in one
destiny.
“Matching action with his promise to unite the state in his inaugural
speech, the Governor displayed a magical and practical wand hours
after his inauguration by announcing three key appointments in his
administration.
“He appointed his Chief Of Staff from Kogi East. That was the first
time in history that a Chief of Staff to the Governor would emerge
from a different zone. All the previous governors had always appointed
their tribesmen as Chiefs Of Staff. He appointed his then Special
Adviser on Media and Strategy from Kogi Central and his then Chief
Press Secretary from Kogi West…”
Governor Bello has also called on the people of Igala, Kogi East not
to allow themselves to be deceived by those promoting ethnic agenda.
He told party supporters during a campaign rally in Ankpa that the
state had moved beyond the promotion of ethnic agenda to focus on
development without ethnic consideration.
He said: “This administration’s focus is the continuation of
infrastructure provision, youth and women empowerment, improved
health, educational facilities. We will not allow anyone to deceive us
with the promotion of ethnic agenda…”
Owing to the tension already generated, the coalition of umbrella
development associations in the state has appealed to the people to
work in synergy for a peaceful election and the overall development of
the state.
The associations comprising Ebira People’s Association (EPA), Igala
Cultural Development Association (ICDA) and Okun Development
Association (ODA), represent the three senatorial districts.
At a press conference in Lokoja, the presidents of the three
socio-cultural organisations said the objective was to build bridge of
unity among the various ethnic groups in the state, as development can
only thrive in a conducive and peaceful atmosphere.
Recently in Lokoja, while addressing a Peace Walk, organised by
ActionAid Nigeria in partnership with Participation Initiative for
Behavioural Change In Development (PIBCID) in commemoration of the
Global Peace Day, Governor Bello enjoined Kogi people to live in peace
and harmony, irrespective of religious, ethnic and class biases. He
urged them to eschew violence for the advancement and development of
the country.
The non-governmental organisations in Kogi are also not relenting in
their efforts to caution relevant agencies charged with the
responsibility of ensuring a peaceful election.
The Centre for Advocacy of Justice and Rights, in partnership with the
International Foundation Electoral System, has educated Kogites on how
to mitigate election-related violence.
Mr. Kingsley Obida, the center’s Project Officer, said this at a
stakeholders’ meeting, held in Ogori, Ogorimagongo Local Government
Area of Kogi.
Obida said the meeting was to discuss issues related to electoral
violence and how to mitigate such.
In his reaction to the latest outbreak of violence in Ankpa, the
Secretary of the Media and Publicity Committee of APC 2019
Governorship Campaign Council, Dr. Tom Ohikere, described the
occurrence as a clear show of PDP’s intimidation tactics of PDP. This
was as PDP claimed that its members have come under APC’s attack.
The alleged attack on the APC campaign train came barely one week
after Ohikere raised the alarm that PDP was importing and arming thugs
for the election.
Ohikere said the importation of thugs was intended to cause mayhem and
harm leading figures in the APC Campaign team.
He called on the Nigeria Police and other law enforcement agencies to
be on top of their game to pre-empt and arrest the hoodlums to
forestall the breakdown of law and order.
The PDP, however, described the allegations as baseless. The PDP
campaign spokesperson, Adejoh said: “Presently, we have a mass
movement that is blind to party, tribe, status, religion and every
conceivable dichotomy in Kogi State. The goal is ‘Bello must go’. We
don’t need thugs. This is a disingenuous wolf cry to get the excuse to
attack us as they have always done…
“Ten persons were killed in the last elections. All of them were PDP
members. Even now our people are being attacked daily particularly in
Kogi East…”
Perhaps, most shocking was INEC’s recent revelation that thugs have
been mobilised to disrupt the governorship elections in Kogi and
Bayelsa States.
INEC chairman, Mahmood Yakubu said this while speaking at the
quarterly meeting of the inter-agency consultative committee on
election security (ICCES) in Abuja.
He said the commission had discovered that politicians were sponsoring
thugs to disrupt and influence the November elections.
“This calls for a robust response before the elections, on election
day and during the process of collation and declaration of results,”
he said.
He told the security agencies that Nigerians expect that lessons must
have been learned from previous elections to ensure swift security
response to the “increasing desperation by political actors to disrupt
elections and subvert the will of the electorate.
“If that happens, many Nigerians will blame the electoral umpire and
the security agencies. We must continue to rise to this challenge.”
A Non-governmental organisation, Search for Common Ground (SFCG), has
also lamented the rate of political killings in some parts of the
state, as the election approaches.
The Early Warning Coordinator for the group, Mrs. Omolola Mamedu, who
disclosed this in Lokoja during the monthly Stakeholders’ Conflict
Scan Analysis on Electoral Violence in Kogi State, said 21 observers
would be deployed to all the 21 local government councils of the
state. She said the early warning signs indicators showed that the
election would be violent, and called on security agencies to brace up
to the occasion.
She explained that the observers had been selected and trained to
observe and report to an existing database platform on early warning
signs and conflict indicators.
She noted that search early warning observers have reported cases of
violence and physical attacks between APC and PDP members.
Culled from Leadership

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