Just three months after the third anniversary of the gruesome murder, the sacrifice, the burning alive of Mrs Salome Abu in Ochadamu, her ancestral home, in Kogi state, on the altar of politics to lubricate the undeserved victory of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the November 2019 Kogi governorship election, Kogi East Senatorial District has emerged with a blood-soaked prize as the thuggery headquarters of Nigeria’s politics.
The late Salome was the women leader of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), a very vibrant political leader, whose crime was that she campaigned vigorously for the PDP and frustrated efforts by the APC thugs recruited from the ranks of the state government ‘produce boys’, to falsify election results for their masters in Lokoja and Abuja. In spite of loud and nationwide outcry over her murder, as symbolic of the sham election that took place in 2019, and in spite of the multiple reports by election observers that the governorship election was anything but democratic, and that it should be cancelled, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) allowed it to stand.
On its part, the Nigeria Police Force failed the people by rejecting calls for the security agency to thoroughly investigate the woman’s murder. In the end, the jaundiced justice system in Kogi State set free most of the young men fingered for the crime, such that only one person was sentenced to a laughable prison term. Shamefully, institutions of state failed to penalise those who brazenly committed murder and arson.
No doubt, the fact that Mrs Salome’s murder was treated with levity, and the authorities’ failure have emboldened political thugs to repeat their demonic act in the 2023 elections. Video, audio, and visual images that flooded the worldwide web from Kogi East during last Saturday’s Presidential and National Assembly polls depicted a lawless enclave ruled by armed thugs who were propped up by evil politicians bent on raping the people of their will to decide who should represent them for another four years. Democracy is popularly defined as the government of the people by the people and for the people. But in Kogi State, democracy has been redefined as the government of thugs, by thugs and for the benefit criminal political elite.
It is very unfortunate that the democratic experience in the North-Central State in contemporary Nigeria has been dented by the undue recruitment of thugs by competing and desperate politicians who use violence against their rivals. Instead of selling ideas that address the needs of the people and proving how superior their plans were compared to those of their competitors, politicians find an easy, low-hanging resort to the use of force through thugs, to snatch from the people the political power to decide who should occupy leadership positions for their benefit. In the process, criminal elements rose to become local government chairmen or administrators, special advisers to governors, and members of the Kogi State House of Assembly and competed to represent Kogi East in the National Assembly.
Worse still, it has become a common practice in Kogi East for traditional rulers to honour political thugs with un-deserved traditional titles in return for blood money. Traditional institutions should be the custodians of the values of society; they must not be complicit in criminal activities, binding their people with evil fetters, and so that they are not able to speak the truth to thugs and corrupt politicians. The oddity in this is that while many federal constituencies and senatorial districts in the country are represented in the National Assembly by professors, ambassadors, PhD holders, accomplished business moguls, former permanent secretaries and retired top civil servants, Kogi East is represented by incompetent politicians who pride themselves as loyalists to selfish governors. They fail in negotiating and attracting federal projects and institutions to Kogi East.
Twenty-four years of unbroken democracy, the people of Kogi East Senatorial District should have been accustomed to the fact that the people know what they want and they must not be compelled to vote for any candidate who failed to deliver good governance when given the opportunity. All over Nigeria, it has dawned on the people that thuggery is no longer fashionable, so reports about violence are no longer as widespread as they used to be in the past. Politicians have learned to endear themselves to the people in order to secure their votes every four years, they must produce credentials of positive impact on the lives of the people, through the provision of necessary infrastructure, an enabling environment for businesses to thrive, and by attracting federal government projects and incentives to their people. In Kogi East, all these are lacking, providing a clean slate for new entrants into politics to write promises like good rural roads, electricity, good rural healthcare facilities, rebuilding dilapidated primary schools, reconstruction of ancient markets, and the like in the campaign rhetoric. In the eight years of President Muhammadu Buhari, there is no federal government project to point to in Kogi East Senatorial District, in spite of the fact that APC has continued to win elections in the area, and in spite of all sorts of palliatives, incentives, and massive interventions in the agricultural sector in other parts of the country. This is not because Kogi East is not represented in the National Assembly. Now, these representatives who have failed the people are bent on stealing the elections. No, never again.
In spite of the show of force by the police and other security agencies, and multiple emphases by the INEC that no form of forgery could prevail in the elections as a result of the deployment of BVAS, goat-headed, misguided young men acquiesced to deceptive persuasions by, mainly APC politicians and their savagery agents, to embark on the senseless mission of snatching ballot boxes, threatening voters, disrupting the voting process, and even snatching result sheets from electoral officers in order to falsify election results. An example of the stupidity of thugs was the timely gunning down by the police of one Ojochenemi Akayaba, a so-called fresh graduate of Kogi State University, Anyigba, who foolishly rode into a polling centre to disrupt the voting process last Saturday. We could blame Ojochenemi for being misguided, but the young man’s blood is on the head of the candidates in the election who sent him on that suicide mission. They must be held to account for his death; they must not escape the wrath of the law. Our law enforcement agents must investigate Ojochenemi’s death and bring to book all politicians who recruited him into the political crime, brainwashed him, and gave him the weapons to terrorize the people. The young man’s death must not be swept under the carpet as just the ugly end of another political thug in Kogi East.
The tragedy in Kogi East Senatorial District is that this evil is occurring in a society full of men and women who are passionate about lifting people from poverty. Not just passionate, but people who demonstrate commitment to Kogi East’s development through individual interventions in the provision of social amenities in rural communities. Tired of failed promises by politicians who rape them at every election, many communities have had to resort to collecting widow’s mites from their people, in the process of executing projects to meet the pressing needs of the people, mainly in rural areas. This is a society under a state government that has, for almost eight years now, failed to pay civil servants salaries due to them; a society where political leaders steal the people’s resources to live in revelry, building and buying up houses and luxury apartments in Abuja, Lagos, and Lokoja, investing in hotels and petrol stations, by pinning the people down to penury. This is totally unacceptable. This time around, the people of Kogi East must elect leaders who are competent; leaders that are passionate about developing the senatorial district. The people of Kogi East must decide who should lead them into the future; thugs cannot decide the fate of the people; greedy, corrupt and blood-thirsty politicians cannot prevail this time around. No, never again.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) must cancel the elections conducted in Kogi East Senatorial District last Saturday; especially in those areas where thugs snatched ballot papers and Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) machines in order to manipulate the results. There is a lot of evidence to point to the fact that the elections were not free and fair. If INEC allowed the 2019 sham election in spite of the overwhelming evidence of fraud and allowed the APC state government that benefited from the fraud to remain in power for four years, it must redeem its image this time around, by doing the right thing. The Chairman of INEC, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, must not permit illegality to stand for the second time in a row in Kogi East Senatorial District. No, never again.
Indeed, change in Kogi East must begin with this election. The people must rise to the challenge, and resist the evil men who have set in motion the process of stealing the will of the people. The people, all civil society organizations in Kogi State, traditional rulers, leaders of thought, former ministers, former National Assembly members, governors, and the elite must come together to challenge the evil forces who have held Kogi East down for too long. The peace-loving people of Kogi East do not deserve the leadership foisted on them by blood-sucking politicians, who are encouraged by the inaction of federal government institutions to get away with murder. Thugs should not determine the fate of the people. It is unacceptable. This evil must not stand. Never again.
BY THEOPHILUS ABBAH, a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Forensic Investigation and Fraud Examiners of Nigeria, wrote from Abuja
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