By Haruna Salami
All eyes are on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), security agencies as the much awaited off-season gubernatorial elections in Bayelsa, Imo and Kogi states scheduled for November 11, 2023 is here.
Already, a lot of tension, including violent clashes between different political parties, has occured during ongoing campaigns in the three states.
The electoral umpire, INEC has reassured the electorate that the results will be transmitted electronically, but that has not been taken seriously by the various stakeholders who are living witnesses to the 2023 general elections and the failed promises of INEC resulting in numerous litigations.
In Bayelsa and Imo states, Governors Hope Uzodinma and Douye Diri are seeking re-election while in Kogi , Governor Yahaya Bello, who is completing his second term is fighting a battle to ensure Usman Ododo, his anointed candidate success him.
The violence in Kogi is mainly between the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) and widely accepted Social Democratic Party (SDP) and its candidate, Murtala Ajaka, popularly called Muri.
Various attacks on SDP, especially it’s campaign offices are allegedly blamed on APC thugs on behalf of the state government, which are usually denied.
Many citizens of the state have written petitions to the Federal Government, particularly Jibrin Okutepa (SAN) laid the blame at the doorstep of the Kogi State Government.
Already, the Federal Government seems to be positively responding the situation by deploying security in hotspots, like Ejule in Ofu Local Government Area and other hotspots in the state.
President Bola Tinubu, has also come out to say that he has no candidates in the elections, urging INEC to conduct free, fair and credible election in the three states.
A renowned human rights lawyer, Femi Falana recently called on Tinubu to ensure Nigeria gets it right in the electoral process.
Tension in Imo state rose recently with the molestation of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) President, Joe Ajaero.
Hope Uzodinma, Governor of Imo state, while on a visit to State House, Abuja read political meaning into the NLC plan strike in Imo, alleging that the labour union was been used by the opposition parties in the state against his government.
Bayelsa state seems to be low on the scale of violence perpetrated so far in the build up to the election.
Despite violent campaigns in Kogi, the electorate are eager to vote in the forthcoming election as a duty to liberate the state from almost eight years of Governor Bello’s misrule, especially the percentage payment of salaries that has been the order of the day.
Others, including members of the APC are not happy with the manner the party’s candidate Usman Ododo emerged during the gubernatorial primary election, which was a subject of litigation up to the Supreme Court.
However, people fear political apathy unless the Federal Government continue it’s heavy security presence throughout the state to reassure the electorate of their safety.
INEC’s reassurances by the National Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu that the elections will be free, fair and credible, including transmission of results electronically is taken with a wait and see approach, with the experience of the 2023 elections still fresh in people’s minds.
Though the recent Supreme Court ruling on the presidential election, may discourage some voters, that not withstanding, many voters are eager to cast their votes, provided there is adequate security.