Richard Elesho, Lokoja
There were more than 70 reported cases of election violence during the November 16th Governorship/Kogi West Senatorial District election in Kogi State. Most of the cases were of critical dimension.
A non-governmental election observer group, The Search for Common Ground, which observed the just concluded elections made this known in Lokoja on Tuesday during a post-election review meeting.
Omolola Mamedu, the early warnings coordinator identified the common forms of violence as political party/candidate violence, ballot snatching, thuggery, vote-buying, the proliferation of firearms, unknown gunmen, fake policemen, intimidation, hate speech, unprofessional conduct of Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC and security agents. Others are attack on corps members and forceful change of poll results.
The group identified the overriding political culture of money politics and godfatherism, poverty, desperation for power and identity-based rivalry as some of the factors that cause or promote political violence in the country.
Mamedu noted that the overall analysis revealed massive election violence, political killings, ballot box snatching, the use of thugs to perpetrate violence and called for a change of attitude for a better culture of democracy.
She said observers also reported a high level of vote-buying at polling units and deployment of hate speech by political actors across party lines.
She condemned the unprofessional conducts of some INEC officials and security agents while expressing appreciation for the role of media men despite operating in very difficult circumstances during the election.
She called on relevant actors and security agencies in the electoral process to adhere to early warning signals of electoral violence and appropriately seek measures to mitigate or prevent violence from escalating.
The group recommended urgent electoral reforms that will truly guarantee the independence of INEC, the use of electronic voting and making elective public offices less financially rewarding as factors that can help curb election violence.
“There was the need to for early voters education months before any election so as to fully inform voters on the need for their preferred candidates instead of encouraging vote-buying and all forms of voters inducement,” she recommended.