One Vote Many Bullets Indeed!

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For those finding it difficult to develop an independent idea about what transpired in the November 16th governorship election in Kogi state, the Daily Trust Editorial titled, “One Vote, Many Bullets” is a recommended read. Some of us refrained from making comments on the election since, because it became clear to us that emotions were beclouding the sense of judgement of some of the commentators, and one does not want to play into the hands of the aggressive partisans who believe that they could use anything to justify the outcome of the exercise.

But having read the editorial of the Trust which prides itself as the bastion of objectivity, am now relieved to rely on its position to confidently share my own independent assessment as a non partisan personality not holding kogi voter’s card and couldn’t have had partisan support for any of the political parties that contested in the recent election which I monitored very closely before, during and after. In the aftermath of the election, I have read some people who  commented to the effect that the opposition lost out because it either had weak or no strategy at all, and I laughed!

I laughed within me, because I know that anyone who holds that type of opinion is either deliberately mischievous or not serious at all with issues of credibility of our democratic process which should be of concern to every Nigerian, regardless of whether  one gained or lost in the recent election. Or worse still, such people don’t know what it means for unarmed people to face state power with its capacity to unleash terror on people either openly or through disguise. That’s where such analysts always derail.

If I may ask,  was the other party that was declared winner by INEC in the election, even with the excess of 12,000 votes as was widely reported in some  media platform won because it had a superior strategy? If you say so, and you meant it, it’s a pity! But for an objective mind, what happened in the election was not the characteristic of voting in an election; rather it was a display of an  imbalance in the terror war with one side backed by the state apparatus at the expense of the other, as the paper rightly described the election in Kogi state.

Starting from the violent disruption of the PDP primary election to prevent it from fielding a candidate without report of any arrest made by the police, to my knowledge;  the burning down of SDP party Secretariat in Lokoja without any police arrest; the manhandling of the SDP candidate, Natasha, at the accord signing ceremony in Lokoja in the presence of the INEC chairman and IGP without any arrest made, tell me, whether it is possible for any functional state conscious of its sovereignty to abdicate its security roles to thugs to allow them overwhelm its own security apparatus the way we have witnessed in the election. Ask what happened to members of Shiites group who tried to block the convoy of the Chief of Army staff, for you for you to know that no state security can surrender itself to non state actors like that. But we saw that abdication before and during the kogi election!

We also had threats of violence in kogi central and unwillingness of the local government authorities in the five local government areas of the  kogi central to give the opposition party spaces for the campaigns and security guarantee for the party supporters during the political campaign rallies, thus making it impossible for the PDP to hold rally anywhere in kogi central. Could that have happened in a state where security of lives and property is the essence of government?

Again, did you know that 4 DIGs of police were deployed to give security cover to Okene alone during the election where it was reported that there were no cases of violence and over 90% of registered voters in the local government turned out to vote for a particular party as reported by the INEC returning officer during the result collation in Lokoja? Was the same allowed by the custodian of security in Kogi East? Do you also know that Okene is the local government area of the incumbent governor? Do you know that contrary to the tight security measures taken in Okene to protect the massive votes, Dekina local government area was left porous and vulnerable to insecurity to the point where an attempted ballot snatching was made at the polling unit where the opposition candidate voted and that the opposition was muscled to a point where the party’s chief security officer, a retired deputy commissioner of police  in the area had his house raided in the middle of the night with pictures of him and some members of his family openly displayed with the alleged seized riffles found, thus making it possible for him to be kept in detention while the election lasted and others were causing mayhem with arms?

Add all these to the use of intimidation and instrument of violence as recorded in parts of Lokoja and the N10billion that was released to the state days before the election and still have the face to tell me that the opposition’s loss was a function of lack of or weak strategy! If you do, then you are not only a bad analyst, but your sense of what’s true is questionable.

For even the local and international observers miffed by what they saw during the election had no hesitation in rejecting the outcome of the election before the results were fully released.

For the avoidance of doubt, my concern is not about who lost or won in the election, but about our future as lovers of democracy who can only enjoy true freedom when the game is played according to rules and not on the strength and partisan sophistication of the ruling power. If that becomes the case, be sure that even you that’s smiling today because the party you have sympathy for won, won’t be safe tomorrow when the table turns, because no single person, group or individuals can lay claims to power forever.

That the PDP lost out just by mere introduction of card readers by a political scientist who was ready to play by the rules as an unbiased electoral umpire under a leader that was prepared to respect the will of the people, after  just16 uninterrupted years in power, should serve as a lesson for all. And as for those mocking the Igalas for losing out in the power game which they embraced massively on ethnic solidarity; they might not have known the unity that the experience has built among the people from the various parts of Igalaland who felt genuinely that they were being alienated from the governance of the state. They might have lost out by their anointed candidate not been declared winner in the election, but you can’t write off the ruggedness of that solidarity, and regardless of the action that the candidate of the losing party might take, the onus is on the winner to legitimise the power, because in politics, power can only be used effectively when legitimised by the holders.

Meanwhile, if the election has thought us any lesson; it’s that the Igala spirits of bravery, solidarity and unity were reinforced and cannot be wished away and the use of naked force coupled with the loses in areas with massive state government’s appointee remains the evidence of people’s will!

For those in doubt about what transpired in the election and how to asses it, I advise again, that you should please open and read the paper. Thank you

– Abdullahi Sani Abdullahi

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