The exact number of people killed in Kogi State during the November 16, 2019 governorship election is at large. Four were said to have been killed in Lokoja, seven in the eastern district of the state. We do not know the fate of those with gunshot wounds who probably succumbed after the election. With the level of violence reported in Kogi State, the election cannot be said to be democratic.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is clinging to legalisms, in the argument that no provision of the Constitution or the Electoral Act empowers it to cancel an election. Yet INEC ought to also reason that the drafters of those important laws would never have ever contemplated an election so pervaded by violence.
A bad election is like obscenity. We may not be able to define it. But we know it when we see it. INEC should not make Nigerians think that the commission cannot know a bad election when it sees one. Even if you go by the first principles of democracy, the idea of a democratic election is to choose leaders in a free, fair and peaceful election, devoid of deceit and violence. The reason people choose democracy is that it is the opposite of government by violence, the mafia and strongmen. What part of this deal does INEC not understand?
Most Nigerians did not contemplate the level of violence witnessed in Kogi State. True, the state has had a history of violence but nothing close to this all-out warlike confrontation. It was such that the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, confessed that the Police were over-powered by “fake policemen.” Of all adversaries, fake policemen should be easy to take care of.
But the gnawing feeling is that if the Police had done their homework, they probably should, through intelligence, be able to gauge that they were about to confront a superior force, in which case, they could ask for more than the 34,041 officers and men they mobilised for Kogi State, or, if the “fake” force was so overwhelming the Police could call for reinforcement.
Now, the question is who enlisted the fake policemen and armed them enough to be able to overpower the real Policemen? In that case, the Police should have alerted the nation that what was going to happen on November 16, 2019 was no election but a civil war. And all those who witnessed it agreed that it was closest to a civil war than an election.
The argument that the Police were overpowered is unconvincing. Ballot boxes after ballot boxes were snatched in broad daylight in the presence of voters and three or four policemen without the Policemen raising a finger. It was not that they tried to apprehend the thugs but failed. It was that they did not try at all. All over the world, Policemen almost instinctively, in or out of uniform, try to stop law-breakers. For the Police to play dead in the face of such open violent attack during an election is the height of insensitivity, a total lack of commitment.
Now, Mrs. Salome Abuh, the Women’s Leader of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), was burnt alive in her home in Ochadamu Ward in Ofu Local Government Area. As narrated by Simeon Abuh, she was first attacked at the Ochadamu Primary School Polling Unit 1, by political thugs. She was then rushed to hospital where she received treatment and the doctor asked her to go home to rest.
It was the same thugs who, two days later, arrived to burn her alive over an incident she knew nothing. The cruelty of burning people alive must be one of the most dastardly acts under the sun.
It took a condemnation of the atrocity by President Muhammadu Buhari and the UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, to get the Police to look for the assailants. We urge the police to ensure that the killers of Mrs. Abuh are brought to justice. We think it was thoughtful of the Senate to condemn the killing of Mrs. Abuh. It would be even more imperative to work on the Electoral Offences Commission.
Between 1999 and today, hundreds of Nigerians must have perished through election violence. We know this is of little moment to those who do not mind climbing on corpses to attain political power, but how long can we live with that enormity?