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 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. 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 for rejecting calls for the security agency to thoroughly investigate the woman’s murder. In the end most of the young men fingered for the crime were set free, and only one person was sentenced to a prison term.
No doubt, the fact that Mrs Salome’s murder was treated with levity, the authorities’ failure has emboldened political thugs to repeat their demonic act in the 2023 elections. Video, audio, and visual images that flooded the World Wide 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 government of the people by the people and for the people. But in Kogi State, democracy has been redefined as a government of thugs, by thugs and for the benefit of the criminal political elite.
It is very unfortunate that the democratic experience in the North Central state in contemporary Nigeria has been dented by 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 to prove 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, members of 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 undeserved traditional titles in return for blood money. Traditional institutions should be custodians of the values of the society; they must not be complicit in criminal activities, binding their people with evil fetters, and so that they are not able to speak 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.
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. The 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 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 terrorise 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.
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 a second time in a row in Kogi East Senatorial District. No, never again….
Dr Abbah, a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Forensic Investigation and Fraud Examiners of Nigeria, is based in Abuja.