By Muhammad Bashir – 12.11.2019
Barely five days to the governorship election in Kogi State, suspected political thugs yesterday morning set ablaze the Kogi State secretariat of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in Lokoja, the state capital.
The SDP secretariat, located in the same neighbourhood of Lokoja Local Government secretariat, around the Paparanda Square, was vandalized by some thugs who smashed glass windows in the secretariat and destroyed campaign posters and billboards that bear the picture of the party’s governorship candidate, Barrister Natasha Akpoti, on them.
It was learnt that the building was razed on Monday at about 1a.m. with valuable items such as furniture, documents, electrical equipment and campaign materials burnt.
The building, which is located few metres away to the state police command headquarters in Lokoja, was reported vandalised on Saturday, November 9, by suspected armed thugs.
It was learnt that the SDP rented the building from AVM Ndatsu Umaru, a former military governor of Kwara and Kano states.
Recall that Governor Yahaya Bello was, on Sunday, booed around the secretariat by some youths alleged to be supporters of the SDP.
The governor, who was on his way to Abuja, was driving through the road opposite the SDP secretariat.
Confirming the razing of its secretariat, the state chairman of the SDP, Mouktar Atima, accused the ruling party of unleashing their thugs to carry out the attack.
Atima said the development was a confirmation of the several threats received recently by the party’s candidate, Akpoti.
The SDP chairman, who described the attack as undemocratic, unhealthy to the serenity of the Saturday gubernatorial election, wondered why a ruling party which is in control of all resources, including security, is feeling unsecured once election approaches.
“Did Yahaya Bello want to contest this election without opposition? Did he want to go unopposed so that no one can contest with him? If not, why is he attacking the opposition parties?” Atima asked.
He, however, said no amount of harassment and destruction will deter the party and its governorship candidate from contesting and winning the Saturday election, saying they remain undaunted even as he appealed to party faithful not to be discouraged over the shameful act.
Also, the governorship candidate of SDP, Barrister Akpoti, lamented the level of destruction in the party secretariat.
She equally accused Governor Bello of being the mastermind of the attack.
“What Bello should know is that he is the governor of Kogi State, and he owes the people of the state, including me, Natasha Akpoti, the security of life and property,” she said.
However, the spokesperson of the APC campaign council, Kingsley Fanwo, dismissed the allegation that the hoodlums that burnt down the party’s secretariat were sponsored by the ruling party.
According to him, the party and its candidate are currently busy campaigning around the state and “have no time for irrelevant issues.”
When contacted, the state Police Commissioner, Hakeem Busari, said the police were already aware of the incident, stressing that the command has commenced investigations into it.
Incidence of attacks had increased in the state in the past few days, causing fear and tension among the residents.
New Telegraph had, yesterday, reported that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has raised the red flag about the high likelihood that the polls may be marred by violence.
A senior official of the election management body, who spoke with New Telegraph in confidence because of the sensitivity of the issue, said that going by the various pre-election indicators, including the consultative meetings held with stakeholders in both states, the atmosphere around the election looks tense.
Our source said that the elections, which come once every four years, ought to have been an opportunity for the electorate to chart a new course for their states in terms of leadership recruitment, but lamented that the atmosphere under which elections are held often does not give citizens the freedom to make their choices.
“As we are preparing to hold these elections, there ought to be that enthusiasm not just among the electorate in both states, but even among our staff and the ad-hoc staff we have recruited for the exercise. But what do you find? It’s disillusionment, apprehension because everyone is afraid that there could be violence.
“The reason is not far-fetched; our politicians have learnt nothing in the last two decades of our democracy. Rather, they have perfected the play book – Power for Its Own Sake. Just declare me elected and let my opponent go to court. To them, it is war, not elections. This is why the atmosphere is always charged,” the INEC top official said.
According to him, while INEC has made all necessary arrangements to conduct the governorship elections in the two states, the challenge of security and lack of basic social infrastructures, such as water, light and transportation logistics, had always hampered its success.
“But a major issue is the security of our staff and materials. We are afraid of violence. We are concerned about the security situation in the two states.
“Although the Nigeria Police is the lead agency mandated by law to provide security, it is doubtful if they can do it alone with all the reports of arms build-up in these two states.
“We have an option of inviting the military to support the Nigeria Police if the need arises, but the military is reluctant to get involved in election duties after the controversies that trailed their roles during the last general election,” he said.