The fervent plea of Kogi’s diaspora residents echoes with urgency, urging the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of Nigeria to revisit the gubernatorial election held on November 11, 2023, with particular emphasis on the events surrounding the Kogi Central polls. This impassioned call emanates from grave apprehensions stemming from observed irregularities that severely tainted the sanctity of the electoral procedures.
Just before the commencement of the election, troubling instances of pre-filled ballot papers surfaced, indicating a bias towards the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Mr. Ahmed Usman Ododo, hailing from Kogi Central. Sadly, the polling units in Kogi Central had yet to commence due to the tardiness of INEC officials. Shockingly, despite INEC’s non-arrival, there were already result sheets being tallied. The absurdity lay in the fact that though the election had not started, EC8A forms were already undergoing counting in Kogi.
Allegations of election manipulation swirled around the results from Ajaokuta, Okene, Adavi, Okehi, and Ogori/Magongo, allegedly orchestrated by INEC staff to favor Mr. Usman Ododo. The numbers seemed drastically incongruent with reality: in Okene Local Government, an alleged turnout of over 138,416 votes contradicted the BVAS count of less than 30,000; a similar discrepancy occurred in Adavi with over 101,156 purported votes against a BVAS count of less than 25,000. This pattern persisted in Okehi and Ajaokuta.
Amidst these unsettling developments, INEC acknowledged the grim situation during the Kogi Central election, prompting the suspension of voting in certain locations within the region. Expressing deep concern, the Commission addressed the malpractices, particularly the completion of result sheets before the actual voting process. INEC explicitly denounced any outcomes not stemming from its official polling unit processes, declaring such results unacceptable.
In a firm stance against malfeasance, INEC suspended the election in nine wards of Ogori/Magongo LGA, vowing a thorough investigation into similar incidents across other local government areas. The Commission, resolute in upholding electoral integrity, pledged to trace any involvement in subverting the process, promising appropriate sanctions as necessary.
Assuring the people of Kogi State that their votes are safeguarded and their desires will be honored, INEC emphasized its commitment to integrity in the electoral process. However, despite these investigations and actions, INEC controversially proceeded to declare the candidate of the APC, Mr. Usman Ododo from Kogi Central where the ballot papers were prefilled in the candidate’s favor as the winner of the Kogi governorship election.
INEC must heed the voices of the electorate and the glaring irregularities that marred the sanctity of the electoral process. The call for justice must not be overlooked or delayed. Urgency is paramount in rectifying this grave situation within the stipulated time frame, ensuring a thorough and transparent review of the election proceedings in Kogi Central.
The people’s faith in the electoral system must be restored through demonstrable actions that address the concerns raised. INEC’s commitment to upholding fairness, transparency, and the rule of law demands a comprehensive investigation that culminates in a just resolution, respecting the will of the voters.
Failure to promptly and decisively address these grievances could erode trust in the electoral process, perpetuating a cycle of skepticism and disillusionment among the electorate. Thus, INEC stands at a pivotal juncture to uphold the integrity of democracy by swiftly rectifying the aftermath of this tumultuous saga in Kogi Central.
– Muhammad Ahmad wrote from Lokoja.