Two months after the conduct of the governorship election in Kogi State, war of wards has continued between the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, and the Social Democratic Party, SDP.
The development is building further political tension in the State, with fear that the planned inspection of election materials by the SDP might be visited with violence.
To avert a possible mayhem, the process has been moved to the national headquarters of the INEC in Abuja.
FIDELINFO recalls that the keenly contested election was won by Alhaji Ahmed Usman Ododo, who will later this month be sworn in as the fifth civilian governor of the State.
Ododo of the APC was declared elected by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, having defeated his closest rival, Murtala Yakubu Ajaka of the SDP during the November 11, 2023, polls.
However, even with Ododo set to be sworn in on January 27, the SDP says the battle is not yet over.
Some political parties such as the People Democratic Party, PDP, Action Democratic Congress, ADC, are not contesting the outcome of the election in court.
But the SDP candidate, Alhaji Muritala Yakubu Ajaka argued that the results from the Central Senatorial District, where the APC candidate hails from, was highly manipulated.
Ajaka is in court, hoping to upturn the outcome of the polls.
It could be recalled that the National Chairman of the SDP, Alhaji Shehu Gabam, while addressing journalists in November, 2023, said, “We in SDP disagree, we are sad, we are disappointed, at this level of civilisation, this level of developing our democracy, that such level of brazen disregard for the rule of law is still accepted. We will not leave it, we will challenge it, and we are putting all our facts together.
“We have told the President this will be the first test run for his integrity, I don’t know if we are moving into a one-state system, we are following some of the development, we are following some of the judicial pronouncements.
“In this same country that we fought for democracy, in 1999 some of the best politicians were arrested and sent to prison for the restoration of democracy. From 1999 to date our democracy has produced more than grandchildren, so, we are not learning.”
He bemoaned the fact that the electoral umpire had indicted its officials for compromising, but that no action had been taken despite his assertion that impunity was the norm.
APC fires another shot
Just a few days ago, the APC alleged that the Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC, in the State, Mr Gabriel Hale Longpet, has been compromised by the SDP.
They accused the REC of conniving with the SDP and its candidate to destroy the electoral materials used in the concluded election.
This was contained in a statement issued on Wednesday, which was signed by Kingsley Femi Fanwo, Spokesperson/Director of Media and Publicity to the APC.
The Kogi APC recalled that the Social Democratic Party and its candidate obtained an ex-parte order of the Tribunal on the 25th day of November 2023, directing INEC to, among other things, allow an inspection of electoral materials used for the Governorship Election.
The party said, “the INEC was given only 48 hours to comply with the said order, which includes all forms, registers, result sheets, ballot papers and BVAS machines.
“Upon being served with the Order on the 27th day of November 2023, INEC filed a motion before the Tribunal on the 29th day of November 2023 praying the Court to set aside the said order contending that the Tribunal lacked the jurisdiction to make the said order and for other reasons such as apparent contradictions in the said ex-parte order.
“That motion to set aside dated and filed on 29/11/2023 is to our knowledge still before the Tribunal as it has not been heard. It must also be noted that till date, the said Order for inspection granted on 25/11/2023 has not been served on the winner of that election, Alhaji Usman Ododo and the APC who are listed as parties in the said Order of Court.
“Most importantly is the fact that the Petition in respect of which the order of inspection was initially sought and granted was filed on the 2nd of December 2023 with the SDP and its candidate admitting at paragraph 92 of the contentious Petition that INEC had given them documents contained in the Order which included Voters Register, BVAS Accreditation Reports and Result Sheets.
“With the above background in mind, it is therefore shocking to learn that the REC of INEC in Kogi State, who works for a body which has asked a Court to set aside the Ex-parte Order for inspection it made, is now organizing an inspection exercise in Abuja for the SDP and its Candidate, an exercise which is fully and financially sponsored by the SDP and its candidate. Specifically, the REC sent out the following messages to affected Staff of INEC in Kogi State:
“Good evening everyone and compliment of the season. I have just been contacted by the legal team of the SDP regarding the inspection of the election materials for the November 11th Governorship Election.
“They said that they had communicated to the Commission that they would like to start the inspection with Adavi, Okehi and Okene. They are ready to be responsible for the logistics and accommodation of the EOs and the HOD EOPs and ICT who must be at the Inspection as directed.
“Please convey this information to the affected officials. As for the logistics, Barrister Olowo who has been dealing with us will provide the funds. Please ensure that all officers and HODs mentioned are in attendance for the inspection. Admin Sec. Co-ordinate. Thanks. REC”.
He mentioned that the message was followed up by another request sent at the instance of the REC as follows: “In line with the above, I have been directed to inform the HODs (Ops&ICT) HoU Logistics and Electoral officers of Adavi, Okehi and Okene LGA to avail themselves at the Commission’s Headquarters, Abuja, on 4th Jan, 2024, for the inspection, scheduled to hold by 9am to 6pm”.
The APC said the above message showed that the REC has been heavily compromised by the SDP.
Fanwo said, “It is clear that the SDP and its Candidate who claimed to have filed their Petition have an ulterior motive regarding the election materials used for the conduct of the November 11 Governorship Election in Kogi State and the REC Kogi State who is on their payroll is willing and ready to assist them to tamper with these materials.
“The REC by the above message is willing to compromise other staff of INEC by allowing the SDP to pay for their transportation, accommodation and other logistics for an assignment which ought to be an official assignment. The Law which sets up and regulates the activities of INEC does not confer on INEC’s legal opponents to fund INEC’s official assignments.
“The above message from the REC has clearly shown that he is no umpire and that he is no longer worthy of the position of a REC as he has been heavily compromised even before this exercise as he has an established financial relationship with the SDP and its candidate who have been dealing with him through the said Barrister Olowo.
“It is unfortunate that the REC in charge of Kogi State has decided to soil his hands in a case in which legality of filing is still in contention till date. He has clearly failed the test of impartiality and integrity and has clearly misrepresented the nobility of INEC.
“At this point, we call on the Chairman and Management of INEC to immediately halt any inspection of electoral materials used in the November 11, 2023 Governorship Election in Kogi State pending the determination of the Motion on Notice filed by INEC and others to set the Order of inspection aside.
“INEC should commence disciplinary processes against the Resident Electoral Commissioner for Kogi State, Mr. Longpet, having been heavily compromised by the SDP and its Candidate.
“The message from the REC is an admission of graft by him and a final nail on his fraudulent activities in the State. He has clearly misrepresented the integrity and legal interest of INEC. The electoral body should suspend or redeploy the REC from Kogi State pending the outcome of the disciplinary process against him”.
Stop propagating fake news – SDP fires back
In a swift reaction, the SDP faulted the claim of the APC over the alleged compromise of the REC.
In a statement, the Director New Media Muri/Sam Campaign Council/SDP, Isaiah Davies Ijele, accused the ruling party in Kogi State of always propagating fake news to mislead the general public.
He said, “Kingsley Fanwo, the head of the propaganda wing of the expired, unwanted and directionless government of Emperor Yahaya Bello must be hallucinating to be speaking from both sides of his mouth.
“The same Fanwo that was praising INEC and accusing SDP for being responsible for the attack against Dr Longpet is the one turning around now to accuse him of working with SDP.
“The wagon of outlaws that praised INEC to high heavens are today desperately trying to paint the INEC as an institution in bad light.
“If not for the activities of some compromised staff of the organization, an individual like Fanwo that should be in the intensive care unit of a psychiatric hospital will not have the guts to peddle fake news against such a body.
“Through Fanwo, mandate thieves accused the SDP of not filing any petition, they engineered fake protest in the name of the SDP to cause commotion but failed, the shameless dishonorable Fanwo allowed himself to be used as the mouthpiece of evil machinations against Kogites.
“Fanwo is a certified dealer of fake news. Mr Fanwo, whatever the legal team of the SDP is doing is in line with the legal standards of the court and intune with the laid down laws of our country.
“Fanwo and his co-dreamers should allow the law to take its full course. He is making those that stole the mandate of Kogites to look like a desperate drowning set of people seeking public sympathy. He should allow them to continue begging from one office to another. What are they afraid of? How can a thief be beating drums after stealing?
“I will advise Fanwo to immediately submit himself to any psychiatric hospital closer to him for an emergency mental evaluation.
“Instead of writing incoherently to cover the fraud, he should reserve his pen to defend Yahaya Bello, his boss when the EFCC and other law enforcement agencies of Nigeria come knocking after the expiration of his immunity.”
Ijele averred that the SDP candidate will recover his mandate through the legal processes.
As of the time of this report, it is unclear whether the SDP succeeded in inspecting the election materials, yesterday, Thursday.
The SDP spokesman, Ijele, is yet to respond to an enquiry by FIDELINFO on whether the election materials were inspected as scheduled.
However, a top member of the party, who spoke to FIDELINFO under anonymity, was upbeat that no form of frustration and propaganda would deter it from pursuing the course of justice