Kogi, Bayelsa and Violence ~ By Olusegun Adeniyi
If you are following the campaigns leading to Saturday elections in Kogi State, you may be forgiven for thinking it is a contest not about governance and representation, but rather about who is more ‘bedmatically’ proficient in The Other Room. The challenge, however, is that beyond the theatrics, there are apprehensions that the state could, on account of the elections, descend into violence. The same fear holds for Bayelsa State where elections also hold this Saturday.
There are clear indications that many of the political actors in the two violence-prone states (Kogi and Bayelsa) are preparing for war, given the acrimonious nature of their primaries. If members of a political party have no qualms about unleashing violence on their own supporters during an internal exercise, will they have any compunction dealing with their political opponents during secondary elections? Yet, if the elections are truncated by violence, the same political actors will put the blame on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) rather than look at themselves in the mirror.
Meanwhile, due to the verdicts that have, at different times, come from election tribunals and the courts, gubernatorial elections in seven states (Kogi, Bayelsa, Anambra, Edo, Ondo, Ekiti and osun) are now held off-season, which means that they are conducted at different times from the general election. But with just eight local governments, 105 wards, 1,804 polling units and 923,182 registered voters (of which 889,308 have collected their PVCs), conducting elections in Bayelsa should ordinarily not be difficult. The challenge of course is that there is a desperation by two men who are not on the ballot and if there is violence on Saturday, they should be held to account: Outgoing Governor Seriake Dickson and his predecessor and current Minister of State, Petroleum, Mr Timiprye Silva.
In Kogi State, there are 21 local governments, 239 wards, 2,548 polling units and 1,646,350 registered voters (of which 1,485,828 have collected their PVCs). But aside the governorship contest, re-run elections will hold in Kogi West senatorial district (seven local governments) following the tribunal nullification of the election of Senator Dino Melaye. The public vow to stop Melaye by Governor Yahaya Bello, whose first term should not merit a second if performance were a yardstick, could ignite violence. This is aside the fact that in a state where elections are fought almost as wars, both Melaye and Bello are desperate. And that makes them very dangerous.
In all, we can locate the problem in the fact that the most rewarding enterprise in Nigeria today is getting into public office. Until we deal with that attraction that has little to do with the urge to serve or for public good, our elections will continue to be a do-or-die affair!
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