From Tunde Rahman, Lokoja
Search for Common Ground (SFCG), an observer group specialising in monitoring violence during and after elections has declared that the last Kogi governorship election was characterised by violence, vote buying, open intimidation and harassment of voters.
The election violence monitoring NGO made the observation at the post election review meeting in Lokoja, the Kogi State capital.
The body also declared that the election was not free, fair and credible. The observers identified in their report factors responsible for election violence in Nigeria, citing an overriding political culture of money politics and godfatherism, coupled with widespread poverty and ignorance.
Other causes, the group identified are the quest for power at any cost by politicians, corruption, and religious/ethnic based identity politics.
Omolola Mamedu, the group’s early warning coordinator, while reviewing the last elections in Kogi State said that the overall analysis revealed massive election violence, political killings, ballot box snatching and the use of thugs to perpetrate violence.
She said observers also reported a high level of vote buying at polling units across the state.
Also reported were a proliferation of fire arms, leading to sporadic gunshots by unknown gunmen wearing fake police uniforms.
Mamedu also called attention to cases of intimidation and harassment of voters, observers, media and IBEC officials, with the widespread use of hate speech during the period under review.
She condemned the unprofessional conduct of some INEC officials and security agents, but expressed appreciation for the role of the media despite operating in difficult circumstances during the election.
The group coordinator 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.
“There is the need for early voters education months before any election, so as to fully inform voters on the need to vote for their preferred candidate instead of encouraging vote buying and all forms of voter inducement,” she recommended.
Mamedu also urged political parties and their supporters to refrain from deploying and perpetrating electoral violence, calling for a culture of respect for, and adherence to, the rules governing the conduct of elections