Reported violence not enough to discredit Kogi election – Yahaya Bello

Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello [Photo Credit: The News Nigeria]
Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello [Photo Credit: The News Nigeria]

The Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello, on Tuesday said the just-concluded governorship election in the state was free and fair despite damning reports to the contrary by election observers.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Monday declared Mr Bello the winner of the controversial poll.

PREMIUM TIMES reported how Mr Bello of the All Progressive Congress (APC) won the November 16 election with 406,222 votes to defeat Musa Wada of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who scored 189,704 votes.

Natasha Akpoti of the Social Democratic Party came a distant third with a score of 9,482 votes.

Mr Bello who spoke during an interview on Channels Television breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, on Tuesday accepted that there was violence during the election but said it is not enough to discredit the poll.

The governor said the election was credible, that a level-playing field was provided and that it was free and fair.

“In every election, there is bound to be one issue or the other and you can’t take a pocket of issues to judge the general conduct of the election,” he said.

“Regarding the comments of the civil society organisations, they are entitled to their own opinions but let us know the parameters with which they are judging this election.

“How many polling units did they visit out of 2,548 polling units, 239 wards and 21 local governments across the difficult terrains of this state? How many people have they reached out to?

“Have they interviewed all the electorate? So what are their yardsticks?” the governor asked.

Mr Bello’s reactions come after criticisms by many observers and civil society groups, condemning the reported widespread incidents of violence and voter intimidation.

The Diplomatic Watch had on Sunday also expressed alarm at the reports of fatalities and missing people during the Kogi election and urged stakeholders to call for calm.

“We express our alarm at reports of widespread incidents of violence and intimidation, some of which were witnessed by our teams in Kogi. There are reports of fatalities and people missing, including INEC staff. Our thoughts are with all victims and their families,” their statement read in part.

The Diplomatic Watch includes teams from Austria, the European Union Delegation, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States who monitored Kogi and Bayelsa state elections on November 16.

Also, the Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth & Advancement (YIAGA Africa), on Sunday called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct a new election in Kogi State following reported cases of violence, vote-buying, and manipulation of voters.

YIAGA said the elections in the state did not reflect the preferences of voters because they were not given genuine opportunity to exercise their right to vote.

The Centre for Democracy and Development, (CDD), on Monday, said 10 deaths and 129 cases of violence and electoral crimes were recorded in the polls in Kogi and Bayelsa states.

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