The breakdown of law and order, violence, ballot box snatching and killings which characterized the governorship and senatorial elections in Kogi State on Saturday 16th November not only undermined the credibility of the election, but made a mockery of the avowed preparation and competence of the Nigeria Police Force.
A situation where at least six persons lost their lives during the elections, excluding the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Woman Leader in Ochadamu Ward in Ofu Local Government Area of the state, Salome Abuh, who was incinerated in her house thereafter in most gruesome circumstances in the hands of political thugs, was equally barbaric and an indication of the level of degeneracy of Nigeria’s electoral process.
If the attack on Mrs. Abuh was shocking, her horrific manner of murder in the hands of thugs who allegedly surrounded her house, barricaded all possible escape channels before setting the place ablaze and rained volley of gunshots into the air while she agonised to death was also gory and savagely cruel.
The entire horrific incidents sounded curious and bizarre, especially as the rampaging armed party thugs cruised around in Hilux patrol vehicles unchallenged by security operatives and practically turned the state upside down, smashing ballot boxes and, in a particular case, with connivance of a police helicopter.
Even more puzzling was the fact that this crass lawlessness occurred in an election where the Inspector-General of Police, Muhammed Adamu, had earlier deployed about 35,200 policemen, including a deputy inspector-general, assistant inspector-general of police, and six police commissioners, besides thousands of operatives of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and other security agencies.
Prior to the election, the police high command had vowed that its security deployments into Kogi and Bayelsa states “shall involve conventional police personnel who will be complemented by special units from the Police Mobile Force, Special Protection Unit, Counterterrorism Unit, Special Forces, Intelligence Response Unit, Special Tactical Squad, Mounted Troops and K9 Section, Air Wing and the Marine detachment.”
The police had similarly promised to effectively monitor identified flashpoints and utilise intelligent gathering to deal with plans of some aspirants who were organising their armies.
The Deputy Inspector-General of Police (Operations), Abdulmajid Ali, who represented the IGP, had expressed police readiness for free, fair and credible polls in the state and promised impartiality, bearing its cognition of the peculiarity of Kogi as a synonym for electoral violence. It was, therefore, snoopy that the same police failed woefully to match their words with action by providing level playing ground for all candidates and remain impartial.
It was, therefore, ludicrous that while this crass brigandage permeated the entire elections, the IGP’s excuses were that the crimes were the handiwork of fake policemen and the helicopter merely scared away criminals. The puzzle bothering the minds of Nigerians are while these so-called fake policemen undermined our democracy, what was the reaction of the over 32,000 genuine policemen the IGP deployed to the field?
Given the fact that the constitutional duties of his officers and men include the prevention of crimes, detecting and arresting criminals and prosecuting them, how many of such were nabbed during the elections? Did the so-called counterfeit policemen outnumber the genuine policemen? If the answers to these questions were in the negative, then the police can hardly wriggle out of allegations of complicity or criminal negligence.
Sadly, from the build up to the elections, the danger signals were widespread, especially with the intimidation of the opposition as illustrated in the attack by hooded armed men on Suitorial Hotel, Lokoja, which housed the Oyo State Governor, Mr. Seyi Makinde, leader of the PDP campaign committee in the polls and other notable leaders of the party.
Earlier, in their share bravado, not even the presence of the IGP and that of the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, at a pre-election peace gathering of the political parties could scare the hoodlums as they attacked the venue of the meeting. As a prelude to this, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) candidate, Natasha Akpoti, has suffered the same fate in the hands of the thugs, in what was described as a reprisal.
It stood logic on its head to say that the same police officers and men who, in concert with the state police command, were able to ward off the attack on Makinde and his men, buckled and relaxed on election day. Equally benumbing was the ubiquitous presence of some vigilante groups and women who sang “war songs” before the elections.
Worse still was Police Service Commission’s quick commendation of the officers and operatives involved in the election for their performance, despite the wide condemnation of the complacency of the police by the civil society groups who monitored the elections.
We, however, commend the arrest of six suspects in connection with the murder of Mrs. Abuh and the orders of the president on the matter. But of greater importance is the need to investigate the complicity of security agencies in the elections because of its far-reaching implication on our election’s integrity.
Credit: New Telegraph