Lokoja had always stolen our attention. The City had always been a news swinger, stealing our attention by the calibre and nature of news it is making. From the on set, it has been a news material because of its natural perculiarity of being the city where the two major rivers in Nigeria come together to become one.
Then the rumble of electoral cloud set upon the horizon of the state. But before the rains drop, the war of progressivism and conservatism began. Starting by the end of the PDP primaries in September and the party flagbearing of Prince Audu in the ACN, Nigeria saw, for the first time since April, the fight of the broom revolution against the hegemonic control of the umbrella. In the titanic battle for electing the next occupant of Luggard House after Governor Idris, the ACN brought its full machinery to contest against the mega resources of the PDP. Back then in April, it was said that the leaders of the ACN bargained to hand President Jonathan his mandate. But Lokoja set the leaders of the ACN against that of the PDP with the President at the helms of affairs.
The events surrounding the December 3rd gubernatorial election in Kogi is now a matter for historical debate. The Independent National Electoral Commission had on Sunday 4th december announced Captain Wada Idris of the PDP as the winner of the election having polled 300, 372 votes against the 159,913 votes of Prince Audu of the ACN. Whether the results as released and announced by the electoral umpire is the true representation of votes casted across the state is a matter for the adjudication of the election petition tribunal.Yet, the lack of jubilation across the streets of the city of Lokoja is evident of the fact that the electoral victory as declared might not have been the representation of the hopes and aspirations of the people of Kogi. Even right in the collation centre, there were arguments as to the figures presented on the returning forms of the INEC officials.
In its generality, the events at Lokoja remind us that the malaise and malady of electoral brigandage and heist is still very endemic in our society. Not only that, there is also a clear indication that voters apathy and low turn out is still very much inherent in our democratic process. The total number of registered voters according to INEC is 1.32 Million and the total votes casted just a few numbers above 500 thousand. On analysis, a case where less than 50% of the registered voters was returned as the total number of votes cast, speaks volume of how much the Nigerian populace still fret away from using their electoral power to put the right person in government. Though the candidate of the PDP was declared winner, the total number of his votes when compared with the total number of registered voters gives a very meagre percentatge. Or could we say the 22% of the total number of registered voters is enough for electoral victory?
Not only this, the election process itself is a subject of many debates. There was lack of sufficient security personelles across the state. This made it easy for dare devil electoral thugs to snatch and man-handle electoral materials in certain centers. In some areas, electoral materials arrived as late as 2:15pm while in some others election did not hold at all. When the result got to the final collation centres, the returning officers made matters worse with the presentation of results that were incoherent, rough and shoddy.These, pu together, makes it difficult to accept the declaration of the beneficiaries of the electoral "Italian Job" as free and fair.
The high number of voter apathy as witnessed in the results declared in Lokoja shows that we still have a lot of work to do in ensuring that our election processes carry the true representation of the diversity of the Nigerian populace. It brings to mind, the ineffectiveness of INEC and other stakeholders to mobilize the citizens for the performance of their fundamental civic duty. For the drive towards a greater country, we must start a more vigorous sensitization and orientation programme to ensure that Nigerians are no longer afraid of going out on election dates to cast their votes. The Kogi election has clearly shown to us that INEC is not yet advanced. And that the capability of the body to conduct national elections is still a subject of concern. If there could be unavailability of materials in an election which covered just one state, how would it handle that of the whole Nation at a time. One would have expected that sequel to the commended success of the April edition, there would be little advancements in the conduct of elections and electoral affair. But the irregularity and incoherence of result sheets and the lack of professional expertise with which the staff of the Commission handled the result indicates the backward slide of the umpire into the inglorious years of our electoral shenanigans.
For what it is worth, Lokoja has shown to us that the progressives are getting stronger and putting up a better fight in the cause of ensuring a larger geographic spread of their ideology. For a party which lacked presence years ago to surface just a few months to the election and give the hegemonic PDP a run for their money is very commendable. It is sure that the declaration of 4th December will not be the last of it. But the conduct of the election evokes fear about the readiness of the umpire for the electoral duties ahead and 2015 general elections in particular. If care is not taken, by 2015, INEC would have assumed its 2007 form.
Adekunle Adeola Sijibomi