With only seven weeks to the governorship elections in Kogi, Imo and Bayelsa states, slated for November 11, there is palpable political tension in the states as thugs inflict terror on parties and supporters, especially those in the opposition in the states ABDULRAHMAN ZAKARIYAU writes on the need to nip this in the bud for free, fair, credible and acceptable elections
Governorship elections in Kogi, Imo and Bayelsa have in recent years been marred by several unsettling events. This has led to avoidable loss of lives and property.
The political atmosphere in these states is already tense ahead of the governorship elections slated for November 11, 2023 by the Independent National Electoral Commission. Already, thugs are unleashing terror, while the opposition is accusing governing parties of suppression, intimidation and harassment.
This time round, Governor Hope Uzodimma of Imo State is seeking re-election, likewise his counterpart in Bayelsa State, Douye Diri, while Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State is rounding off his second term and is supporting the All Progressives Congress candidate, Usman Ododo, whom he anointed among the aspirants to win the primary.
In Kogi State, the 2019 governorship election was marred with violence, voter intimidation and harassment. A Peoples Democratic Party’s Women Leader of Wada Aro Campaign Council, Ochadamu Ward in Ofu Local Government, Mrs Acheju Abuh, was burnt to death in her home by political thugs, while four others were killed and many others sustained varying degrees of injury.
Tension is rising in the confluence state already, as pockets of violence, attacks and destruction of some parties’ campaign posters were recorded.
For example, the candidates of the African Democratic Congress, Leke Abedije; Social Democratic Party, Murtala Ajaka; and Peoples Democratic Party, Senator Dino Melaye, have accused the Yahaya Bello government of intimidation and harassment of their supporters, an allegation the Bello government denied.
Similarly, the 2019 governorship election in Imo State was also characterised by violence. In spite of the heinous activities of gunmen and Eastern Security Network, the militia arm of the Indigenous People of Biafra, which claimed over 400 lives, political actors and their thugs compounded the security situation ahead of the election.
Recently, gunmen murdered eight security personnel in Umualumaku, Ehime Mbank Local Government Area of the state. The secretariat of the Labour Party in the state, situated on Wethedral Road, was reduced to rubbles, and thugs also wreaked havoc on PDP leaders, supporters and the party’s property.
While the PDP and LP accused the candidate of All Progressives Congress and governor of the state, Hope Uzodimma, of harassment and intimidation, the state government restated its commitment to a violence-free governorship election.
The situation is the same in Bayelsa State. In 2019, violence and protest marred the election across the eight local government areas. Thugs took advantage of the security lapses and unleashed mayhem on voters, party agents and INEC officials.
A few weeks ago, suspected political thugs murdered three in Opu Nembe, Nembe Local Government Area. At Bassambiri, another community in the local government, policemen engaged in a gun duel with some armed youths, which resulted in a stampede and left scores injured.
While the residents of these states continue to live in fear, political thugs, sponsored by high-ranking and wealthy politicians in the three states seem determined to unleash mayhem on their political rivals.
This has elicited commentaries from election experts, political analysts and other Nigerians, many of whom agree that the activities of the hoodlums would negatively impact the November 11 governorship elections.