Opposition parties in Kogi State have not only dismissed Saturday’s governorship election in the state as a sham but allegedly warped in many mysteries and ‘concocted’ figures that only court can unravel, RALPH OMOLOLU AGBANA reports.
Amid incidents of pre-filled result sheets, over voting and compromise by its officials, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Sunday declared the candidate of All Progressives Congress, (APC), Usman Ahmed Ododo, winner of last Saturday’s governorship election in Kogi State.
According to the final results as announced by the electoral commission, Ododo won with 446,237 votes, defeating his closest rival, Murtala Ajaka of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), who polled 259,052 votes. Dino Melaye of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) got 46,362 votes to come a distant third.
INEC had proceeded with the announcement of the results of the election ignoring warnings by SDP and PDP against doing so, pending investigations of widespread allegations of malpractice especially in Kogi Central Senatorial District. SDP and PDP insisted that elections in the five Local Government Areas of Okene, Okehi, Adavi, Ajaokuta and Ogorimagongo in Kogi Central should be cancelled.
Presenting the letter of the petition of the SDP at the State Collation Centre, Lokoja, the visibly enraged agent of the party, David Ehimony, said his party did not accept the outcome of the elections in the five local government areas in the Kogi Central senatorial district because the results were doctored. SDP called for outright cancellation of results in the entire Kogi Central zone. However, the APC agent Abdulazeez Idris King, objected to the petition by the SDP.
Kogi State Returning Officer and Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academics) of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Prof Johnson Urama, upon listening to the arguments of the agents pleaded for all parties to await the outcome of INEC investigations into the contentious elections in the affected areas. He noted that the provisions of the electoral law did not permit the panel to cancel results.
Meanwhile, INEC had earlier announced the suspension of elections in nine wards in Ogorimagongo while also stating that fresh elections will hold in 59 electoral wards. National Commissioner and member, Information and Voter Education Committee of INEC Mohammed Kudu Haruna said, “The Commission has received reports from our officials in Kogi State on incidents of electoral malpractices, particularly the incident of result sheets completed before voting.
“Reports indicate that the incidents occurred in Adavi, Ajaokuta, Ogori/Magongo, Okehi and Okene Local Government Areas. The most serious incidents occurred in Ogori/Magongo, affecting nine of 10 Registration Areas.
“This is entirely unacceptable. Any result not emanating from the Commission’s process in the Polling Units will not be accepted. The Commission is determined not to reward bad behaviour.”
He further noted that as the processes continued, the commission would not hesitate to apply appropriate sanctions where necessary, which would come after an audit trail of personnel and materials to ascertain those who may have been complicit in undermining the process.
“We have a record of all officials deployed at various levels as supervisors, monitors, technical staff or polling unit officials and all election materials issued to them,” he assured.
Allegations of over voting SDP national chairman, Shehu Gabam, voiced concerns regarding what he claimed are substantial irregularities in the recently concluded elections in Kogi State. Backing his argument with information sourced from INEC’s Independent Results Viewing (IReV) portal, he raised the alarm over discrepancies that demanded urgent attention.
According to Gabam, these discrepancies are glaring in multiple local government areas, with a focus on Adavi, Okehi, and Okene. Drawing attention to specific instances, he alleged that Adavi, as per INEC IReV data, had 28,070 accredited voters, whereas the official result sheet indicated an alarming 88,413. The resultant over-voting amounted to a staggering 60,343, representing 85 per cent inflation of votes.
Moving on to Okehi, Gabam alleged that although there were 29,995 accredited voters, the result sheet documented an inflated figure of 57,678, signaling an over voting of 27,909. In Okene, he highlighted a stark contrast between the 36,168 accredited voters recorded in IReV and the result sheet’s inflated count of 122,299. This anomaly resulted in an over voting figure of 86,131, constituting a substantial 89 per cent inflation.
Gabam stressed the significance of aligning the number of accredited voters recorded in the BVAS (Bimodal Voter Accreditation System) machines with the numbers on the result sheets. He argued that any deviation from this standard should prompt the cancellation of the affected result sheet or even the entire ward to maintain the integrity of the electoral process and uphold the rule of law.
The SDP chairman emphasised that the cumulative impact of these discrepancies led to total inflation of 174,183 votes. He underscored the need for INEC to ensure proper accreditation at every polling unit and urged swift action to address these concerns to preserve the credibility of the electoral outcome.
Meanwhile, SDP candidate Ajaka, contrary to media reports indicating that he would not be challenging the outcome of the election, on Monday evening announced his intention to pursue legal action. Ajaka said his decision followed concerns of his constituents.
The PDP candidate Melaye also disclosed he had submitted his party’s petition to INEC with evidence. “INEC has seven days to review it; we must see the end of this one. Nigeria is not a banana republic.”
He said: “A meeting was held where they said, ‘Dino Melaye must not come second because if he comes second, it’s dangerous… so, he must come a distant third.’ There was no election; there was only allocation of votes.”
Noting that the election was a sham and disgrace, Melaye presented INEC documents showing differences in the values of the EC8A accreditation and BVAS accreditation. He said from data sourced from IREV, accreditation values of the APC candidate were inflated on the EC8A Forms in Okene, Okehi, Adavi and Ajaokuta. He also gave instances of outright cases of over voting where numbers of votes cast exceeded numbers of accredited voters.
Puzzles from Kogi Central
The common question on the lips of members of the opposition parties and election observers is: How come Kogi Central recorded more voter turnout than in Kogi East with largest population, voter registration numbers and eligible voters followed by West.
The summary of the registered voters per senatorial district shows that Kogi East, which consists of nine local government councils leads with 952,369, followed by Kogi West with seven local governments put at 505,731, while Kogi Central with five local governments has 474,554. Numbers of collected Permanent Voters Card (PVC) for the 2023 gubernatorial election per senatorial district are as follows: Kogi East – 905,274; Kogi Central – 461,096; Kogi West – 466,790.
As at October 31, according to INEC’s official records, out of 1,932,654 registered voters in Kogi State, 1,833,160 have collected their PVC leaving 99,494 eligible voters who may not vote.
However, this is not the first time Kogi Central would surpass the two other zones in a state election. Going by the 2019 governorship election results, nearly half of the votes that secured the second term election of the outgoing governor Yahaya Bello came from his Kogi Central base.
But upon the introduction of BVAS technology, the February 2023 senatorial and presidential elections showed a clear difference with the number of votes cast in the central area reduced drastically.
For example, between the two major parties (APC/PDP) that contested for the February 25 National Assembly election held in the five councils in Kogi Central, the total vote cast was put at 103,895. APC had polled 52,132 votes to PDP’s 51,763. These figures later changed at the election petition tribunal in favour of the PDP, 54,074 votes against 51,291.
In the same February, the total votes between the APC and PDP in Kogi east clocked 190,439. APC polled 108,777 votes while PDP garnered 81,662 votes. Kogi West recorded a total 122,148 votes, shared between the APC and the PDP, which polled 70,184 and 51,964 respectively.
Although generally there was improvement in the turn out for the governorship election across board going by the results declared, none of the two other zones drew attention like central.
Last Saturday, the figures in the central surged astronomical with three councils of Adavi, Okehi and Okene accounting for about 300,000 votes for the APC candidate. Total numbers of votes scored by the APC in the three councils was about 80,000 votes less half of the total valid votes cast in the 21 local government areas, which was put at 782,289 votes, according to the final results released by INEC.
Opposition parties have questioned the undulating numbers of votes and voters’ behaviour in that zone between November 2019 and February 2023 and November 2023.
However, Kogi State APC Governorship Campaign Council has expressed readiness for any litigation from the opposition parties in the state, insisting that Kogi people voted for a united state.
Spokesperson of the campaign council, Kingsley Femi Fanwo, said every vote the party secured in Kogi East represented hundreds of voters, who were harassed, injured and even had their houses burnt for their political beliefs.
He said, “You are the true heroes of democracy. Those who waged terrorism on our democracy out of desperation to make the impossible possible are today moving from one TV station to another to cry foul and create a contrary impression, when unbiased observers from far and near have described the election as the freest and most peaceful since the creation of Kogi. This is the height of desperation to distract our common attention from the heist they committed.”
He pointed out that it is laughable for a candidate, who claimed to win only in his zone to be crying foul and calling for the cancellation of the results of the areas where he was massively rejected.
According to him, it is akin to a student who scored 20 per cent in a test to call for the cancellation of the 80 per cent he missed to make him score 100 per cent, saying: “It is ludicrous, pedestrian, senseless and a dubious attempt to deactivate justice and fairness.”