December 10, (THEWILL) – The Kogi State Governorship Election was one of the three off-cycle governorship elections held on November 11, 2023, the first to be conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC) after the last General Election.
Nigerians paid attention to the three elections because INEC came out of the general election with its image terribly battered as a result of its failure to adhere to electronic transmission of results to its portal.
The governorship elections have come and gone. While the PDP candidate, Douye Diri, won in Bayelsa State, the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidates won in Imo and Kogi States.
Although the Kogi election that returned the candidate of the ruling APC, Usman Ododo, as the winner was more peaceful than expected, the situation in the state seems to have assumed a different dimension, no thanks to renewed violence in parts of the state.
Only last Monday, the Secretary to the Kogi State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, David Mike was allegedly attacked and the attackers allegedly carted away four petitions tabled before the Special Court to seek nullification of the election of Ododo.
This incident was preceded by an attack by gunmen on the residence of the Resident Electoral Commissioner, in the state, Gabriel Longpet
This attack on the secretary to the tribunal was confirmed in a statement issued by the police spokesperson in the state, William Aya, in which he said that Mr Mike told the police that he was attacked last Monday by some armed men on the way to his office at the High Court Complex in Lokoja, the state capital.
The statement said the secretary claimed he was with two other officials when the incident occurred.
“All of them (gunmen) surrounded and blocked him (Mike) as he attempted to reverse,” it added.
According to the police statement, Mike said he saw about seven hooded men, all heavily armed and dressed in black attire, who shot severally into the air and dragged him and his two other colleagues out of their car, ransacked the car and made away with all the documents in it, including petitions filed by four (4) political parties, namely Action Alliance (AA), Action People’s Party (APP), Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) and Social Democratic Party (SDP), two (2) record books and a bag containing his personal items”.
The statement said the state police commissioner had ordered an investigation into the incident to unravel what happened.
Following the incident, Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem, the President of the Court of Appeal, relocated the Kogi Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal from Lokoja to Abuja.
A statement by Mike has said the tribunal will now sit at the National Judicial Institute on Umar Yar’Adua Way in Abuja. It urged litigants to take note of the change of venue.
Although the statement did not disclose the reason behind the relocation, it was gathered, it was due to the level of insecurity in the state.
As expected, the two leading parties in the just concluded governorship election in Kogi State, the All Progressives Congress and its main opposition, Social Democratic Party, have politicized the attack as they have engaged in a war of words over the attack on the Secretary of the State Election Petition Tribunal, David Mike.
The SDP alleged that there was an attack on the Secretary on Monday, December 4, 2023 by hired political thugs in Lokoja.
A statement issued by J.S. Okutepa SAN, counsel to SDP, stated that at the time the attack occurred, the secretary was with copies of the election petition filed on 2nd of December, 2023 by the legal team of Alhaji Murtala Yakubu and Social Democratic Party, SDP.
“The said petition was filed on 2/12/2023. The petition is No: EPT/KG/Gov/03/2023. The said petition was duly received and stamped on 2/12/2023 and certified by Mr U. D. Mike On the said date. By the provisions of Section 285(5) of 1999, election petitions are to be filed within 21 days after the date of the declaration of the result of the election,” Okutepa noted.
The SDP alleged there was an attack on the Secretary on Monday by hired political thugs in Lokoja.
However, the APC in a swift reaction said that the alleged attack had “exposed the SDP’s atrocities against democracy.”
In a statement, the Director of Media and Publicity of the APC Campaign Council, Kingsley Fanwo, noted that the alleged attack was nothing but desperate moves by the SDP in Kogi State and ethnic jingoists to paint the state as unsafe, by orchestrating supposed attacks on the Secretary of the Tribunal, Mr David Mike.
According to him, the move was meant to “cover up their already exposed plan to file a petition against the November 11 election outside the period allowed under the Electoral Act.”
Fanwo said that the alleged attack was a “concocted lie and warped strategy of the SDP, as the purported attack on the tribunal secretary was said to have occurred on the day their dubious, anti-democratic plan was exposed.”
He asked, “Why was he not attacked before the midnight of December 3, 2023, when the 21-day window closed? Why is the SDP the first to know about the purported attack? How did they know that he was working on their so-called petition at the time he was allegedly attacked? Why has the SDP turned itself into the advocate for the Secretary? The public cannot be misled. The people know exactly what is happening”, he added.
The attack on the residence of INEC Resident Commissioner, Dr Hale Longpet has also received condemnation.
The Kogi NGOs Network (KONGONET), condemned what it described as the senseless attack on the residence of the Resident Electoral Commissioner, (REC), in Kogi state and called for thorough investigation of the incident.
In a statement, Ambassador Idris Ozovehe Muraina, Chairperson of KONGONET, said this reprehensible act of violence against a public servant is not only an attack on the individual but also an assault on the democratic principles that underpin the Nigerian society.
Muraina noted that targeting such a key figure, who had the responsibility of ensuring a free, fair, and transparent election, was an affront to the integrity of the electoral process and an attack on the democratic fabric of the nation.
The statement reads in part, “We, the members of Kogi NGOs Network (KONGONET), express our utmost condemnation and outrage over the heinous and senseless attack on the residence of the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) of Kogi State, perpetrated by unidentified gunmen in Lokoja.
“This reprehensible act of violence against a public servant is not only an attack on the individual but also an assault on the democratic principles that underpin our society.
“The Resident Electoral Commissioner will play a crucial role in ensuring transparent electoral litigation processes as the head of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Kogi State. Targeting such a key figure is an affront to the integrity of our electoral process and an attack on the democratic fabric of our nation.
“We demand that the authorities take immediate action to bring the perpetrators of this despicable act to justice.
“We strongly urge the security agencies to conduct a thorough and diligent investigation into the recent attack on the residence of the Resident Electoral Commissioner of Kogi State. It is imperative that the actors behind this heinous act are swiftly identified and brought to justice.
“The attack on a public official entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring free, fair, and credible elections is an attack on the very foundation of our democracy.
“The Resident Electoral Commissioner holds a critical position in upholding the integrity of our electoral process, and any attempt to hinder their work undermines the democratic rights of the Nigerian people.
“We call upon the security agencies, particularly the police and relevant investigative bodies, to allocate the necessary resources and expertise to thoroughly investigate this incident. It is crucial that no stone is left unturned in uncovering the truth and apprehending those responsible for this senseless act of violence.
“The residents of Kogi State and Nigerians at large deserve to know the truth behind this attack. We demand a transparent and unbiased investigation that leaves no room for doubt or suspicion. The credibility of our security agencies and the faith of the public in their ability to protect and serve the citizens depend on the thoroughness and professionalism of their investigations.
“Moreover, we urge the security agencies to provide adequate protection to all electoral officials, as well as other public servants, who may be at risk due to their roles in upholding the sanctity of our democracy in this trying period of electoral litigation. It is imperative that a safe and secure environment is created for these individuals to carry out their duties without fear of intimidation or harm”.
Speaking with THEWILL, a Public Affairs Commentator based in Abuja, Paul Okoye, said the attack on both the REC and the Secretary of the Election Petition Tribunal in Kogi State is worrisome.
According to him, there are some sinister motives behind the attack.
“We thank God the last election came and ended successfully. The post-election violence is avoidable. A winner has been declared. Those who felt unsatisfied are already in court. Why the attack? The violence is unnecessary and it should be condemned seriously.
“I will implore the police to please do something about the situation.”
Edo 2024: PDP Begins Preparation, as Shaibu, Ighodalo Lead Aspirants
The race for Governor Godwin Obaseki’s successor at Dennis Osadebay Avenue is steadily heating up as more aspirants have declared their intention to run for the seat of the number one citizen in Edo State.
The Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC) has fixed party primaries for February 2024. One party that has begun preparation for the election in Edo State is the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
The PDP released its time-table for the election a few weeks ago. The time table which was signed by the party’s National Organising Secretary, Umar Bature, was released after a joint meeting of the Board of Trustees and National Executive Committee of the party at its headquarters in Abuja.
According to the time-table, the party’s congress in which its governorship candidate in the Edo governorship election will emerge will be held on February 22, 2024.
PDP had also informed that aspirants interested in contesting the governorship election will get the nomination form for N21 million, while youths aged between 25 and 30 will get a 50 per cent discount on the nomination form fees.
According to the schedule of activities, the registration of old and new members will be held between November 16 and December 7.
December 14, 2023 is the last date for submission of ward register to the Directorate of Organisation and Mobilisation, while stakeholders’ consultative meeting with the National Working Group will hold between December 19 and 20.
The sale of expression of interest and ad-hoc forms for all offices is scheduled to take place between January 10 and 16, while January 17 is the last day for the submission of the completed expression of interest and ad-hoc forms.
The screening of aspirants for the governorship seat by the National Working Committee will hold on January 18, 2024.
The sale of the nomination forms to aspirants who completed and submitted their expression of interest form is scheduled to start from January 19 and end January 25, while January 27 is the last date for submission of completed nomination forms.
February 22 is for the governorship primary election, while February 24 is for the appeal on the election.
As aspirants on the platform of the party are coming out in large numbers, two aspirants stand out for now. They are a Lagos-based economist and banker, Asue Ighodalo and the Deputy Governor of the state, Phillip Shaibu.
Ighodalo, co-founder of Banwo and Ighodalo, a prominent corporate and commercial law firm in Nigeria, is aiming for the governorship of Edo State.
Ighodalo, it was gathered, had resigned from his positions as Chairman of Nigerian Breweries and Sterling Bank in preparation for his political pursuit. This is in compliance with the Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) announcement, marking the schedule for the Edo State governorship election on September 12, 2024.
He is believed to be the favourite candidate of the incumbent governor, Godwin Obaseki.
Ighodalo had in a social media post on November 29, 2023, invited Edo citizens to engage in discussions on the current state of Edo and its future.
While expressing his vision, Ighodalo emphasised the need to tackle poverty and hardship through strategic planning focused on crucial sectors, such as education, technology, healthcare, agriculture and security. He also called for unity and trust between leaders and the populace for the state’s advancement.
He said “All my life, I’ve pursued excellence through hard work, persistence, and teamwork. Today, I am excited to invite you to join me in honest conversations about Edo State; where we are, and what our vision for the future of our state is.”
Ighodalo’s aspirations are rooted in the belief that collaborative effort can eliminate poverty and overcome current challenges by directing investments towards education, technology, infrastructure, healthcare, agriculture, security, and human capital development. He emphasised the critical need to rebuild trust between leaders and citizens to unlock Edo State’s true potential.
Asue Ighodalo has declared that he is a “true Esan boy”, an indigene of Edo Central District of the state.
He stated this while addressing his kinsmen, in response to critics who said he is not a ‘home boy’, but a ‘Lagos Boy’.
Speaking in front of his family home in Ewohimi, Esan South East Local Government Area of the state through an interpreter, he said, “I do things in Esanland because we are not noisy. My brother is here and I am here. Our parents are here. I am a true Esan boy, I am not going to use home boy because they have used it badly. I am an Esan Boy.
“I am a true Esan boy. I am a true Edo boy. I am a true Nigerian. That is what I am. Since 2008, I have been in the economic team of the state, starting from the Adams Oshiomhole Administration. Since Godwin Obaseki came in as Chairman of the Economic Team, I have been coming to Edo state to support and advise the government.
“I have been advising since 2008, which is 15 years ago, which means that I came into the state, five, six, so many times a year for government business, not to talk about my own business. So, people can say what they like.
“Because we are not noisy, and because we are not jumping from one ‘mama put’ to another, does not mean I am not a true Edo boy”.
Another aspirant on the ticket of the party is the Edo State Deputy Governor, Philip Shaibu, who penultimate Monday formally entered the 2024 governorship race in the state.
Shaibu is going into the race determined to confront his principal and Governor of the state, Godwin Obaseki who is not in support of his ambition.
He alluded to his political travails in the last couple of months, especially and declared that he remained unbowed, even as he forged ahead against the unfavourable disposition of his principal, Governor Godwin Obaseki.
Addressing his supporters at the Bishop Kelly Pastoral Central, the new venue, Shaibu said that despite his present predicament, his antecedents in the struggle for democracy were part of the propelling factors for him to move on to actualise his ambition.
Describing himself as “100 percent Home Boy”, an allusion to the clamour that the next governor of the state must be someone who knows the state very well, and not someone ‘imported’, a veiled reference to the touted candidate of Governor Obaseki, Asue Ighodalo,
Opposition to Ighodalo has been fueled by claims that he is unknown in Edo State, a narrative that Shaibu has since advanced by declaring himself the homeboy who does not need to learn the ropes of governance by being familiar with the nook and cranny of the state.
Shaibu hinged his campaign on five pillars of infrastructural development, economic diversification, education and sports.
Others are skills development and job creation, healthcare, social welfare system, agriculture, rural development, poverty alleviation, environmental sustainability, and transparent governance.
He said that while working closely with Governor Godwin Obaseki in the past seven years, a solid foundation for progress had been laid in the state.
About the Author
AYO ESAN, has been actively reporting and analyzing political events for different newspapers for over 18 years. He has also successfully covered national and state elections in Nigeria since the inception of this democracy in 1999.